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Sarah Beth Briggs
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Concerti grossi piu Stromenti Op.2 (published 1698) [46:01]
Alessandro STRADELLA (1644-1682)
Sinfonie “in due cori” [1:58]
Cantata per il santissimo Natale [9:01]
Sonata di viole – concertino di due violini, el lueto, Concerto grosso di viole
rec. Kirche Heilig Kreuz, Binningen, September and October 2005
was a violinist and for many years active in Lucca. But
it’s as Maestro di cappella that he earned his greater celebrity,
one cemented through his textbook on Gregorian chant and a more
general treatise on music. Like many another Italian composer
he was drawn to French dance music and songs, which he attempted
to synthesise with his own Italianate muse.
His Concerti grossi followed in the wake of the explosion of concertante music
by such as Torelli. However Gregori was keen to make explicitly clear that he
wanted the term Concerto grosso to mean that subordinate players were to act
as “reinforcements” for the principal string players. Thus any genuinely solo
passages are rare, Gregori preferring massed attacks and string dialogues to
any embryonically soloistic role for section leaders.
And that’s how it’s played here. The writing embraces considerable vibrancy of
attack with typically Italianate control of staccati. This last is something
of a favoured device of his. The opening of the C major judders briefly, a ploy
to which he returns in the B flat major. He utilises in both cases the Adagio,
e Staccato marking to generate considerable rhythmic compression. He is not
afraid to embrace a degree of harmonic richness nor – within a rather confined
compass – to spin a warm Largo; the D major [No.2] is an especially compelling
aspect of this facet of his compositional art.
He seems to have been aware of his contemporaries’ work in instrumental music – the
A major for example has a distinctly Torellian gravity to it. He employs the
organ in the A minor [No.6] and varies textures and instrumental textures with
surety. A rather warmer, more uplifting form of his favoured staccato appears
in the opening Posato of the final concerto, No.10.
Interspersed between the concertos are some attractive works by Stradella, whose
ensemble sonatas, whilst brief, are also pithy and lyrical. The Sonata di viole
is probably the most attractive with its fine balance between solo and concerto
weight of tone and texture. And the Sinfonia [track 20] is a genuine delight.
The SACD has captured Capriccio Basel with fidelity; they’re an original instrument
ensemble with a 10-3-2-1 line up. Sometimes I felt them pulling away too quickly – this
is very much a mater of taste but I felt the second movement Presto of No.1 for
example was too fast. Demerits must include no tracking of individual movements.
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