In light of a career
that included such successes as study
with Giovanni Bononcini, service under
virtually all the major Roman nobility,
consideration as Corelliís biggest rival,
and eventual induction into the Academia
Arcadiana, one cannot help but wonder
why the music of Giovanni Valentini
fell so quickly into neglect and, until
recently, has remained there. After
experiencing this music, the question
becomes much more intriguing. This recording
offers six of Valentiniís Opus 7 concerti
grossi, including number. 11, the
Concerto for Four Violins that is often
considered to be his masterpiece. In
his liner notes, David Plantier explains
that, for Valentini, the objective was
originality and innovation. He even
went so far as to claim in its preface
that in writing Opus 7, he strove to
create a new style. When this claim
is put to an aural test, Valentiniís
success is immediately apparent. These
concerti exhibit a formal fluidity
that is unfound elsewhere. Each movement
of each concerto embodies its
own unique Affekt; however, they
ease gracefully into each other and
combine forces to create total, coherent
works. Many of these movements are unquestionably
dances. Others, though, seem to take
their inspiration from folk music and
even French recitative. This is, without
a doubt, an eclectic style of composition
and is one not to be missed.
Ensemble 415, under
the direction of Chiara Banchini, executes
this music brilliantly. Intonation is
virtually flawless, and the ensemble
shows remarkable unity. Not a phrase
goes by without careful planning and
direction: crescendi and decrescendi
are exquisitely long and evenly
paced. Ensemble 415 seems to have a
special knack for exposing the incredible
dichotomy of tension and release built
into this music. They imbue each dissonance
with a special character and meaning,
and each resolution rings sweetly. Nothing
is approached nonchalantly.
This ensemble is truly
a group of soloists. Each concerto
features a different soloist, and all
play with remarkable skill and feeling.
The groupís director, Chiara Banchini,
gives a truly standout performance in
the G major concerto (No. 7).
The opening movement, marked Grave,
is simply superb. The dynamic range
with which Banchini plays is truly astounding:
it seems impossible to conceive of a
softer piano that would maintain
the resonance and purity of her tone.
David Plantier, soloist in the second
of the D minor concerti (No.
3), likewise gives an inspiring performance.
Virtuosic passages sound effortless,
and he manages to sculpt phrases into
shapes of remarkable elegance and beauty.
The continuo section lends solid support
throughout. The lower strings allow
each bass line to sing, while the lute
adds impeccable character in some truly
special and intimate moments.
This recording is highly
recommended. May it mark the end of
250 years of unjust neglect!