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Stravaganze Napoletane
Francesco MANCINI (1672-1737)

Sonata XIII in G minor
Sonata II in E minor
Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713)

Fuga con un soggetto solo in D minor for 2 violins, viola and violoncello
Domenico SARRI (1679-1744)

Sonata XI in A minor
Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725)

Sonata IX in A minor
Francesco BARBELLA (1692-1733)

Sonata III in C major
Domenico GALLO (c.1730-?)

Trio Sonata No.1 in G major for 2 violins and Bass continuo
John RAVENSCROFT (?-c.1705)

Sonata Ottava for 2 violins and Bass continuo
Dan Laurin, recorder
London Baroque - Ingrid Seifert (violin), Richard Gwilt (violin), Irmgard Schaller (viola), Charles Medlam (cello), Terence Charlston (harpsichord)
Recorded at St Martin’s, East Woodhay, Hampshire, July 2003
BIS CD 1395 [58.53]

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The focus is Naples, then a Spanish province, and the date for the most part the first quarter of the eighteenth century. Four of the works for recorder and strings derive from a 1725 manuscript that testifies to the abundance of talent in the city – and most of the composers concerned had strong links to the conservatories there. Though instrumental music barely registered in the way that the great choral works did, increasingly composers sought greater complexity in their chamber works. The ones presented here are by composers who have begun to absorb such ideas of modernity or who were established masters of the form – Corelli, Scarlatti – or who were clearly influenced by the new Italian school, such as Ravenscroft who had studied with Corelli in Rome.

Though the form is (in the main) the established four-movement sonata there are great differences between the textual approaches of the composers. Mancini adopts graceful simplicity in the opening Largo of his Sonata XIII in G minor and his Fugue is uncommonly beautiful – the use of the Fuga is common to many of these works and establishes gravitas through the individual use of counterpoint. Noteworthy as well are the questing repetitions in the Largo of his E minor Sonata, adding an almost conversational depth to the writing. Corelli’s Fugue is not original but he expounds on it with exceptional verve and imagination. Domenico Sarri, a most underrated composer, shows in his A minor sonata just how well he characterised his instrumental music – this one mines a special interiority as much as the high spirits of the second movement Allegro. Inevitably Alesandro Scarlatti, who arrived in Naples in 1683, impresses with his A minor work, cast in five very short movements; the Largo is affecting, the Fuga harmonically sophisticated. Francesco Barbella is one of the less well known composers investigated here but his is a sonata teeming with vestiges of modernity – full of a fine sense of tension and unease. Domenico Gallo’s sonata will pull you up short – his opening movement is the music Stravinsky used in Pulcinella, ascribed to Pergolesi. It seems far more likely that Gallo wrote it and it’s a shame that so little is known of the composer, other than music by him survives in Naples and Bologna. London Baroque does him proud with elegance and lift to their rhythms. Finally there is Ravenscroft who could spin an elegantly expressive, tightly structured Grave with the best of them.

The notes set the scene with scholarly lightness and the performances are most sensitive – the hero of the disc is recorder player Dan Laurin who employs an alto recorder in various keys and also plays a voice flute in D for the second Mancini sonata.

Jonathan Woolf

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