Giovanni Battista VIOTTI (1755-1824)
Quatuor Concertant no.1 in F, G.112 (1815) [22:14]
Quatuor Concertant no.2 in B flat, G.113 (1815) [25:48]
Quatuor Concertant no.3 in G, G.114 (1815) [22:34]
Members of I Solisti di Perugia: (Paolo Franceschini (violin); Luca Arcese (violin); Luca Ranieri (viola); Maria Cecilia Berioli (cello))
rec. Teatro della Concordia, Monte Castello di Vibio, Italy, 2-4 June 2008. DDD
CAMERATA CM-28170 [70:44]
Aside from his Paganini-like reputation as a violinist, Giovanni
Viotti is probably best known for his 29 violin concertos, and
rightly so. Nevertheless, he also wrote numerous, sonatas, duos,
trios and quartets, in all of which the violin writing is dominant
- and generally magnificent. Altogether he composed 18 string
quartets, although three of these optionally replace the first
violin with a flute, and further arranged several of his duos
as string quartets. Viotti published the three on this release
by Camerata, a Japanese label, as Quatuors Concertants
in 1817. They were his last quartets, and differ somewhat from
the rest in that the music is more evenly distributed among
the four strings.
Despite their relatively late date, there is little of the ethos
of Romanticism in these works - they are very much in the spirit
of Haydn, right down to the four movement structure and minuet.
There is no great virtuosity as such; in its place, moderation
and clarity - but also an almost endless supply of cantabile
lyricism and melodic invention. The three Quartets are
a model lesson in how to write beguiling music of immediate
appeal to a wide audience.
The website of I Solisti di Perugia, the Italian chamber orchestra
from whose members the four soloists here are drawn, indicates
a discography, achieved in only ten years, of at least 24 recordings,
typically of 18th to early 19th century repertoire, so they
are well versed in the conventions of the music. The soloists
here perform solidly; whilst there is no great abundance of
enthusiasm or excitement, nor are there any great lapses of
discrimination, although judging by the tone of one of the violins,
they do seem to be flagging slightly by the G major Quartet,
in which there also appear to be a couple of recording mis-edits
affecting the cello.
Sound quality is good on the whole, although the microphones
are so placed that they pick up the sometimes excessive inhalations
of at least one of the soloists, who sounds a little catarrhal.
Also, there is a suspicion that a fraction of a second is missing
from the beginnings of some tracks, particularly 5.
The booklet itself is reasonably attractive and informative.
Although the essay on Viotti is, thankfully, written by a native
English speaker, the biographies of the soloists unfortunately
are not: "where she continued her studies with A. Bonucci
passing out at the top of her class" - another example
of editorial indiscretion undermining somewhat the quality of
a finished disc.