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Michele MASCITTI (1664-1760)
Sonate a violino solo e a due violini op. 1:-

Vol. 1
Sonata VII a 3 for 2 violins, cello and bc [06:47]
Sonata IV da camera for violin and bc [09:05]
Sonata XII da camera for 2 violins and bc [07:51]
Sonata II for violin and bc [10:38]
Sonata V da camera for violin and bc [09:06]
Sonata IX a 3 for 2 violins, cello and bc [07:24]
Vol. 2
Sonata III for violin and bc [10:01]
Sonata X for 2 violins and bc [08:15]
Sonata VI da camera for violin and bc [10:25]
Sonata XI da camera for 2 violins and bc [08:56]
Sonata I for violin and bc [10:28]
Sonata VIII a 3 for 2 violins, cello and bc [07:31]
Ensemble Baroques-Graffiti (Jaroslaw Adamus, Sharman Plesner (violin), Frédéric Audibert (cello), Agustina Meroño (viola da gamba), Jean-Christophe Deleforge (violone), Jean-Paul Serra (harpsichord))
rec. August-September 2006, crypt of the basilica Sacré-Coeur, Marseille, France. DDD
ACTE PRÉALABLE: AP0156 (Vol. 1) [51:01]; AP0157 (Vol. 2) [55:48]

Experience Classicsonline

The front pages of the booklets of these discs refer to one of the remarkable aspects of this music: "1704: a Neapolitan in Paris". The opus 1 recorded here was the very first collection of Italian music ever published in France. For a long time the French resisted the Italian influence which had become so dominant elsewhere in Europe. But around 1700 more and more composers began to absorb elements of the Italian style. The fact that an Italian like Mascitti was not only accepted but even highly praised tells us much about the change in the cultural climate at the time.

Mascitti was born in Chieti, near Naples, and began his career in the royal chapel, where his uncle - who also was his first teacher in music - acted as violinist. After travelling through Europe he settled in Paris, where he came under the patronage of the Duke of Orléans. The duke was an ardent lover of Italian music and Mascitti was just one of the Italian musicians he took under his wing. This connection allowed Mascitti to play at the royal court in Paris. He made such an impression that in 1714 he was granted a king's privilege to print for 15 years "collections of sonatas and other musical pieces, vocal as well as instrumental". This privilege was twice extended, in 1731 and 1740, and - as a sign of the appreciation of Mascitti - he was given French citizenship in 1739. It seems he was also generally liked as a person, because of his friendly character and his generosity. Mascitti died in Paris at a venerable age in 1760.

Mascitti's music was appreciated although he didn't make any real concessions to the French taste. These sonatas opus 1 are predominantly Italian in character, and it is no wonder that they were compared with the sonatas of Arcangelo Corelli. Like Corelli Mascitti uses both the common forms of the sonata, the 'sonata da camera' and the 'sonata da chiesa'. But there are also some sonatas in this collection which are a mixture of both forms, like the Sonata II which contains five movements: adagio, allegro, largo (sonata da chiesa), allemande and giga (sonata da camera). The twelve sonatas are divided into two groups: six for violin and b.c. and six for two violins with basso continuo. In three of the trio sonatas the cello is given some independence. In those cases the viola da gamba joins the harpsichord in the realisation of the basso continuo part.

These discs offer more than 100 minutes of music and it was no problem at all to listen to them in a single session; there’s not a dull moment. I was struck by the quality of this music, and in particular by the variety and originality of the thematic material. These sonatas have enough to offer to keep the listener's attention, like the expression in the slow movements. A striking example is the first movement of the Sonata V, whose character is indicated with 'largo et affectuoso'. In particular in the trio sonatas there are a number of movements which contain strong harmonic tension. In the grave of the Sonata VII there is some chromaticism as well. The solo sonatas are not overly virtuosic, although several movements contain double-stopping. Mascitti's opus 1 is definitely more than easy-listening stuff.

It is to the credit of Ensemble Baroques-Graffiti that this set of discs rapidly becomes quite captivating and enjoyable. The fast movements are performed with panache and great rhythmic flexibility. The expressive moments in the slower movements are also fully explored. Sometimes the playing is a bit less polished than we are used to hear from the best ensembles in the business - especially in some of the solo sonatas - but that did not in any way spoil my enjoyment and appreciation. The basso continuo section gives both harmonic and strong rhythmic support. Interestingly the basso continuo of the Sonata X is played by cello only - a perfectly legitimate option, but seldom practised in recordings.

The music has been very well recorded, and the booklets - identical for both discs - contain an informative essay on Mascitti. There’s also information about the players who are from very different backgrounds, but have grown into a very fine group. I hope to hear more from this remarkable composer.

Johan van Veen





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