Giro d'Italia
Giuseppe SAMMARTINI (1695–1750)
Concerto for recorder, strings and bc in F [12:47]
Baldassare GALUPPI (1706–1785)
Concerto a quattro for two violins, viola and bc in c minor [08:09]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1703–1805)
Concerto for cello, strings and bc in G (G 480) [17:31]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678–1741)
Concerto for recorder, strings and bc in F op. 10,5 (RV 434) [07:43]
Pietro LOCATELLI (1695–1764)
Sonata for two violins and bc in D op. 8,8 [12:11]
Francesco MANCINI (1672–1737)
Sonata for recorder, 2 violins and bc in d minor [09:32]
Musica Alta Ripa (Danya Segal (recorder), Anne Röhrig, Ulla Bundies (violin), Friederike Kremers (viola), Albert Brüggen (cello), Jacques van der Meer (double-bass), Ulrich Wedemeier (guitar), Bernward Lohn (harpsichord, organ))
rec. former Farmhouse of Abbey Marienmünster, Germany 29 November-1 December 2009. DDD.

This musical tour of Italy contains compositions of various styles and forms by six composers. The result is an entertaining disc of first-rate music. The only criticism I can think of is that the programme contains too many pieces which are very well-known and available in a number of recordings.

That is certainly the case with the Concerto in F by Vivaldi. Originally this was scored for transverse flute, but the solo part is often played on the recorder. It is not one of his most exuberant pieces, but rather of a pastoral character. That is mainly reflected in the fact that the strings have to play with mute all the time. The sound of the recorder fits in perfectly, and its lyrical character comes out very well in this performance.

This concerto is written in the form of a sequence of solo episodes and tutti ritornellos. This form is also used by Giuseppe Sammartini, who from 1723 until his death lived and worked in England. He was an oboist by profession, but only left one solo concerto for his own instrument. It is the Concerto in F which is played here. The solo part is often performed on the recorder, and as such it is one of the most popular 'recorder concertos' from the baroque era.

The latest specimen of a concerto in Vivaldian fashion is the Concerto for cello, strings and bc in G by Boccherini. Like Sammartini he spent most of his life outside Italy, in this case Spain. He himself was a virtuosic cellist, and the solo concertos reflect his own skills on his instrument. The cello is usually accompanied by the two violins in the solo episodes. This creates a somewhat unusual effect, all the more so as Boccherini particularly explores the highest register of the cello.

Pietro Antonio Locatelli was also a virtuosic performer, but on the violin. Most of his music is written for his own instrument, but he also wrote solo and trio sonatas which can be played on other instruments, like the transverse flute. The Trio sonata in D, op. 8 No. 8 is specifically written for violins, though, as the second movement contains double stopping. The vivace is especially virtuosic. Here the violins sometimes play in parallel motion, but mostly one of them plays elaborate passages with the other violin reduced to the role of accompaniment. This sonata consists of five movements; the fourth is a fugue which shows Locatelli's contrapuntal skills. The closing episode is quite dramatic, showing once again that most Italian instrumental music is theatrical by nature.

Baldassare Galuppi was the most important composer in Venice after the death of Vivaldi. The Concerto a quattro in c minor is an expressive piece which is dominated by counterpoint, and in particular in the second movement (allegro). The first of the three movements is a grave, which contains some strong dissonances.

The disc ends with the oldest of the composers in the programme: Francesco Mancini. He was born and died in Naples, and he was mainly known as a composer of sacred and secular vocal music. His instrumental oeuvre is small, but his sonatas for recorder, two violins and bc belong today to the best-known part of his output. The Sonata in d minor follows the pattern of the Corellian sonata da chiesa, with four movements (slow-fast-slow-fast). Like in Corelli's sonatas the second movement is a fugue. As the recorder and the two violins are often developing a kind of dialogue, this sonata is something in the middle between a sonata and a solo concerto.

As I have said, there is too much familiar repertoire on this disc. The concertos by Vivaldi and Sammartini are two of them, and Boccherini's cello concerto is also one of his better-known examples. In the oeuvre of all of them lesser-known compositions could have been found. That said, the performances give every reason to recommend this disc.

Technically the performances are immaculate, the ensemble is excellent, and the interpretations are strongly gestural, underlining the theatrical character of these pieces. Contrasts are fully explored and sudden changes singled out. The choice of tempo is always convincing. The fast movements are mostly played at high speed. I only had the impression that in some movements the speed increases towards the end. I can't think of any reason to do so.

Danya Segal produces a beautiful tone and adds some tasteful ornamentation. Albert Brüggen gives an impressive display of the quality of Boccherini's solo part as well as his own skills.

In short, this is a fine disc with highly enjoyable music in engaging performances.

Two remarks about the track-list. The concerto by Boccherini is referred to as 'Concerto No. 3'. But Boccherini's catalogue contains just one cello concerto in G, and that is listed as No. 7. And in the case of Vivaldi's Concerto in F there is no reference to the opus it comes from.

Johan van Veen

There are too many familiar pieces on this disc, but the performances are excellent… see Full Review