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Giovanni VALENTINI (1681-1753)
Concerti grossi e a quattro violini, Op. 7

Concerto grosso in A minor, No. 11 (1710) [19:12]
Concerto grosso in G major, No. 7 (1710) [7:43]
Concerto grosso in D minor, No. 2 (1710) [11:32]
Concerto grosso in D minor, No. 3 (1710) [9:50]
Concerto grosso in A major, No. 1 (1710) [15:55]
Concerto grosso in A minor, No. 10 (1710) [10:06]
Chiara Banchini, violin (No. 7)
Stéphanie Pfister, violin (No. 2)
David Plantier, violin (No. 3)
Odile Edouard, violin (No. 1)
Olivia Centurioni, violin (No. 10)
Ensemble 415/Chiara Banchini
Recorded at Frasnes-le-Château, 20 Oct-4 Nov 2001
ZIG-ZAG TERRITORIES 020801 [74:18]


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!

Jonathan Rohr

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