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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

Francesco GEMINIANI (1687-1762)
Sonata Op.4 No.1 in D major [11.04]
Sonata Op.4 No.8 in D minor [11.44]
Sonata Op.4 No 9 in C minor [13.22]
Sonata Op.4 No.10 in A major [8.22]
Francesco Maria VERACINI (1690-1768)

Sonata Op.1 No.7 in A major [10.51]
Sonata Op.1 No 8 in B flat major [12.52]
Lyriarte - Rüdiger Lotter (baroque violin) and Olga Watts (harpsichord)
Recorded in Studio 2, Munich, April 2004


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These two young musicians have constructed an equably balanced programme of baroque sonatas, one that gives the lion’s share to four of Geminiani’s Op.4 set – not unreasonably since his are probably less well known than Veracini’s Op.1. The performances adhere to historically informed practices and Lotter plays a baroque set-up violin, as one would expect of a fiddle player who has played in Musica Antiqua Köln and under Reinhard Goebel and René Jacobs. He also maintained a dual role as a member of the Munich Philharmonic but now specialises in historical practice. Moscow-born Olga Watts has collaborated with Goebel as well, and with Frans Brüggen and Thomas Hangerlbrock and she has an increasing reputation in music of this period.

They give a good account of themselves in these six sonatas that Oehms Classics rather strangely describes on the booklet cover as World Premiere Recording. I’m not sure if that refers to the new group that Lotter and Watts have formed, Lyriarte, or whether they think that these pieces have lain unrecorded all these years. I assume the latter in which case they may be right about some but not all. Milstein recorded the Geminiani Op.4 No.10 in A major twice over, in 1959 and 1975. Sonya Monosoff recorded No.1 in D major. As for the two Veracinis; Op.1 No. 7 has been recorded – famously – by Grumiaux (twice) as well as by Hyman Bress and by Piero Tosso; No.8 by the latter two violinists and also by Giovanni Guglielmo. All of these players were discographic pioneers in this repertoire and they deserve a salute. It would be good to hear Monosoff’s Biber again – and to be aware that Bress recorded the entire cycle of the Veracini Op.1. The two Italian players were also in the vanguard of exploration. Their discs could certainly bear renewed interest from some adventurous outfit.

So, that over, let’s get on with Lotter and Watts. She fills in the textures of the accompanying figures of the Adagio of Geminiani’s D major well, if a little busily. He has a thin, though not pinched or under nourished tone. He also avoids the line bulges and swellings that can give "authentic" performances such a bad name. His ornaments here, and throughout the disc, are generally apposite and unshowy. The Allegro second movement of the same sonata is buoyant and these are indeed very straightforward, musical traversals. There are good dynamic gradients in the C minor and once more a good sense of aerial lift in its concluding Allegro finale but it’s good to hear Lotter dig into the second movement of the D minor, exploring some rather more abrasive sonorities, and giving his lower strings some sustained exposure in its finale. The two Veracini sonatas go happily. The A major is by no means outgunned by opposition, though it cleaves to a more domestic line. The Largo has a firm sense of line and both Allegros of the B flat major are well characterised, its Grave heart inward, though somewhat cool.

The recorded sound is bracing but attractive; no moribund studio acoustic and no clinical separation either. The notes are in German and English. I suspect we will be having complete sets of these two composers’ sonatas – I imagine Manze would bring out the curvaceous and expressive heart of the Veracinis in particular – but this is, on its own terms, a good calling card for these two younger musicians in repertoire in which they clearly feel at home.

Jonathan Woolf


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