The violin concertos on this disc all exist in the penumbra between
the baroque and classical periods. Works from this time are currently
being re-discovered, witness Philippe Jaroussky’s disc
of arias by J.C. Bach. Here we have concertos by four 18th
Italians whose names probably mean little to most listeners.
Whilst Vivaldi is famous and his contemporaries, Tartini and
Locatelli well known, the subsequent generations are less so.
But their music is no less dazzling. These four were violinist-composers,
travelling Europe and astounding their contemporaries with the
brilliance of their violin playing.
Inevitably the shadow of Vivaldi looms over all this music. Though
the four concertos seem to have been arranged to take us on a
journey from Dall’Oglio’s Concerto in C major where
the influence of Vivaldi is keen to Lolli’s Concerto in
C major where we are not far from the galant
of J.C. Bach and teenage Mozart.
Domenico Dall’Oglio was born in Venice and may have studied
with Vivaldi; at least his father worked alongside Vivaldi at
the Pieta. He seems have spent most of his time in St. Petersburg
where he wrote his concerto in 1745. Inevitably, perhaps, the
spirit of Vivaldi looms large, not only in the rustic opening
movement but in the beautiful slow middle movement. This is the
only concerto on the disc where the composer’s own cadenzas
are played. The other cadenzas are by the soloists Giuliano Carmignola
or by Olivier Foures who discovered the Dall’Oglio, Stratico
and Nardini concertos in manuscript at the Music Library of the
University of California in Berkeley.
Michele Stratico seems to have composed around 156 violin sonatas
and 61 violin concertos. He belonged to a group of composers
associated with Tartini in Padua. In this concerto in G minor,
Stratico’s writing reflects the tuneful melodic style of
the older composer. Again we have a hauntingly beautiful slow
middle movement, marked Grave
Pietro Nardini was another of Tartini’s pupils, moving
to Padua at the age of 12 to study with him before going on to
become an itinerant virtuoso. He worked mainly in Germany and
Italy, at the courts in Stuttgart, Braunschweig and Florence,
where he died. Leopold Mozart commented of him that ‘the
beauty, purity and evenness of his tone and his cantabile cannot
be surpassed’. His G major concerto dates from around 1750.
It has a relatively abbreviated slow movement, which is surrounded
by a pair of longer outer movements requiring quite a degree
of virtuosity. In tone we have started to leave Vivaldi and Tartini
Antonio Lolli’s C major concerto was published in Paris
in 1764 and dedicated to the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a famous
violin virtuoso. Here Vivaldi is no longer a, presence; Lolli’s galant
features accompaniments which approach early Mozart combined
with fearsomely virtuoso solo violin writing contrasted with
substantial ritornello sections. We are closer to the symphonic
form in the violin concerto and there are curious pre-echos of
Paganini. Lolli’s career took him to Stuttgart and St.
Petersburg, as well as meeting the Mozarts in Italy and conducting
a musical duel with Dittersdorf.
The soloist on all four of these is Giuliano Carmignola who plays
the virtuoso violin parts in an impressively fearsome manner.
Carmignola deals with the difficult, bravura violin writing with
apparent ease but makes the music the key to his performance
rather than virtuosity as an end in itself. You come away marvelling
both at the player and at the music, Carmignola does not use
fireworks purely for their own sake. Carmignola plays the 1732 “Baillot” Stradivarus.
My only real complaint is that in some movements he is rather
closely recorded and you can hear him breathing heavily as he
The CD booklet includes an informative article on the concertos
and their composers by Michael Horst, but fails to include any
background information on the performers bar some brooding photos
Carmignola is finely supported by the Venice Baroque Orchestra
under the lively direction of Andrea Marcon. The ensemble accompanies
Carmignola in a crisp and lively fashion, and when given the
opportunity contribute some fine playing in the various ritornellos.
You might never have heard of any of these composers but the
musical quality of Carmignola’s playing makes for strong
advocacy. Buy it.