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Pietro Antonio LOCATELLI (1695-1764)
Ten Sonatas, Op. 8 (1744)

No.1 in F major [10:13]
No.2 in D major [9:46]
No.3 in G minor [9:17]
No.4 in C major [13:32]
No.5 in G major [13:56]
No.6 in E flat major [14:46]
No.7 in A major* [11:36]
No.8 in D major* [12:55]
No.9 in F minor* [8:07]
No.10 in A major [9:53]
The Locatelli Trio: Elizabeth Wallfisch (violin), Richard Tunnicliffe (cello), Paul Nicholson (harpsichord); *with Rachel Isserlis (violin)
rec. 20-30 November, 1, 6-7 December 1994 . No location given
HYPERION DYAD CDD22057 [57:23 + 48:12]
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Previously issued as Hyperion CDA67021/2, this performance of the sonatas which constituted Locatelli’s final publication well deserves reissue and is thoroughly recommendable, especially at the two-for-one price of Hyperion Dyad.

Locatelli was not startlingly innovative as a composer. Typically he produces variations on existing patterns rather than new ones. Here the patterns include elements from both the sonata da camera and the sonata da chiesa and both solo sonatas and trio sonatas. Indeed, Op. 8 has a slightly odd, miscellaneous feel about it. Most baroque collections contain either six or twelve sonatas; Locatelli’s contains ten. Most baroque collections are made up exclusively of solo sonatas or of trio sonatas; Locatelli’s includes both – six solo sonatas and four trio sonatas.

All the solo sonatas begin with a slow movement, followed by a quicker movement. In some cases there is only a third movement (quick); in some cases there are two more movements (both quick, save in No.5, where the overall sequence is largoallegroandanteallegro. Contemporaries praised Locatelli for – amongst other things – the sweetness with which he played cantabile movements or passages. Elizabeth Wallfisch brings a real sweetness to her playing of the slow movements, without ever being saccharine. There is grace and dignity in her playing of the opening adagios of Nos. 2 and 6, some sinuous lines in the largo which opens No.1 and some attractive lyricism in the cantabile first movement of No.4. In complementary fashion, she brings plenty of energy and dynamism to the second movement allegros – which are often technically quite demanding, calling for plenty of double-stopping. The allegro which forms the second of No.3’s four movements is carried off with considerable panache. One of the most distinctive movements – and much the longest movement in the whole set, at over ten minutes, is the minuet and eight variations which closes No.6. This is virtuoso stuff – with surprising leaps across the strings, sequences of extremely rapid note values, complex ornament and much more – and Wallfisch carries it all off convincingly.

Throughout the playing of Nicholson and Tunnicliffe provides persuasively idiomatic support, varied without ever being over-coloured.

In the trio sonatas – a form which seems not to have held any great fascination for Locatelli – there is less that is really striking or memorable, save perhaps in the closing allegros where there is some lively imitative writing. The third movement of No.9 marked grave – contains some sombrely beautiful music. The final sonata, No.10, elevates the cello to the role of the second voice in the trio, producing some unexpected sonorities. The opening cantabile is elegantly voiced and the two quicker movements are imaginative and witty.

Op. 8 is not, perhaps, the very best of Locatelli, but it contains some music which any admirer of baroque chamber music will surely want to have in his or her collection; this thoroughly enjoyable set can be warmly recommended as a way of putting it there.

Glyn Pursglove



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