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Giovanni Battista VIOTTI (1755-1824)
Chamber Music for Flute and Piano
Three Nocturnes (c.1820) [21:00]
Six Serenades op. 23 (c.1806) [67:39]
Mario Carbotta (flute); Carlo Balzaretti (piano)
rec. Oct 2007, Church of San Sebastiano, Fontanetto Po; Dec 2007, Centro Studi Assenza, Milan. DDD
DYNAMIC CDS 620/1-2 [42:59 + 45:40]
Experience Classicsonline

This two disc set contains the first complete recordings of Viotti’s Nocturnes and Serenades for flute and piano. Born in the Italian town of Fontanetto Po in 1755, Viotti was a violinist who was known throughout Europe. He worked in Paris from 1782 to 1792, and then moved to London, where he lived until his death in 1824. He was a respected member of the cultural community, and worked as a performer, composer and manager, with contemporaries such as Salomon and Cherubini.

Both sets of works on this disc are transcriptions of works for other instruments; the Nocturnes are thought to have been based on the Trois divertissements pour le violoncello which were first published in 1818, while the Serenades were originally written for two violins from 1802-1804. These Serenades exist in numerous different instrumental versions, demonstrating Viotti’s reputation and the large demand for his music. Although the majority of his compositional output was for violin, he was interested in creating repertoire for chamber music ensembles of all kinds and often even included instructional commentaries with his music.

The Nocturnes are a charming set of three pieces, which are somewhat surprising in style; much of the material is moderately paced, with variations on the melody lines and lyrical minor key sections. Stylistically this music is far removed from the classicism of his contemporary Mozart, and it lacks the ‘salon music’ style of later composers such as Doppler. An influence of Beethoven and Schubert is evident, and the flute writing is perhaps closer to that of Kuhlau. His melody lines are lyrical and well phrased, and there is a level of concentration in his writing which means it possesses a musical depth while retaining a lightness of character.

The Serenades retain the charm of the Nocturnes, with some wonderfully evocative writing - for example, the waltzing Minuetto which ends the first Serenade has something in style of an early Petrushka, with a gentle hint of a fairground. The brief but grandiose fanfare moments demand attention, and there is a sense of drama in the music, perhaps even something operatic; the emotions are strong, no matter whether they are expressed in an expressive slow melody, a light-hearted minuet or a brooding Andante.

Each of the Serenades is written with several short movements, which allow for contrasts in mood and help to keep the music fresh. Charismatic and well constructed, there is much for the performer to convey, and Carbotta and Bazaretti do an excellent job here. An evenly matched duo, the pair is sympathetic towards the other part, balancing well and allowing each other to take centre stage where appropriate. They seem to have an affinity with the music they are playing and approach it with enthusiasm. This is an interesting disc of some unusual repertoire, which is enjoyable to listen to.

Carla Rees 



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