(1678 - 1741)
Concerto in D major RV 208 “Grosso Mogul” [14:41]
Vedrò con molto diletto [4:20]
Giuseppe TARTINI (1692 - 1770)
Sonata in G minor “Trillo del Diavolo” [13:51]
Concerto in A minor RV 358 [7:57]
Francesco VERACINI (1690 - 1768)
Largo [3:40]
Giuseppe TARTINI
Concerto in A minor D115 [14:56]
Nulla in mundo pax sincera RV 530 [6:58]
Concerto in G minor RV 315 “Summer” [9:40]
Nicola Benedetti (violin)
Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Christian Curnyn
rec. 31 May - 2 June 2010, Usher Hall, Edinburgh and 29 September 2010, Air Studios, London (Tartini Trillo del Diavolo and Veracini Largo)
DECCA 476 4342 [76:54]
This is the kind of release on which the clothes worn by the soloist for the photo shoot get equal billing to the technical staff for the recording, but this is one case where we shouldn’t let fashionable marketing put us off: this is a stunning disc in all respects.
Nicola Benedetti already has a track record of fine recordings, including her Fantasie album (see review) and an excellent Szymanowski Violin Concerto (see review). Here she breaks away from romantic repertoire to explore Italian Baroque repertoire which ‘she had never expected to feel quite so at home in’. After a certain amount of stylistic experiment she seems to have hit on an approach which sounds natural, vibrant, and reasonably authentic - whatever one takes that to mean. She is in fact playing on metal strings but with a Baroque bow borrowed from Rachel Podger, and using vibrato as a vehicle for expression rather than standard tone production. The arias are a mild exception in this regard, in which she goes closer to imitating a singing voice but still with admirable restraint. This to my ears is a convincing, indeed a winning combination of technical thought and intuitive response to some very fine music.
Benedetti’s superb solos aside, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra is also something of a model in these pieces, proving to sound entirely at home with this Italian Baroque repertoire. The recording is superbly balanced, with the harpsichord blending nicely with the strings as it should, the soloist forward but not excessively close or voluminous. The programme is a marvellous mixture of meaty concertos, more intimate sonatas, and arrangements of some vocal works which sound excellent in this setting. One of the highlights is Vedrò con molto diletto from Vivaldi’s Il Giustino, which is one of those pieces with juicily dramatic harmonies over which the ‘voice’ draws beautifully expressive lines. Nulla in mundo pax sincera is from a motet, and while more gentle is no less moving.
Of the concertos there are of course a few highlights. I particularly like the energetic theorbo strumming in the third movement Allegro of Vivaldi’s Concerto in D major RV 208, the “Grosso Mogul”. Tartini’s Devil’s Trill sonata is a familiar work, but given a superb performance here, Benedetti seeking the emotional heart of the piece as much as the virtuoso display, which she renders with ease and enjoyably breezy wit. Vivaldi’s Concerto in A minor is from La Cetra, combining trademark technical fireworks with those moments of sparse clarity which zap straight into the emotions through their apparent simplicity. Sandwiched between this and Tartini’s remarkably exploratory late Concerto in A minor D115 is an all too brief sonata movement from Francesco Veracini, some of whose legendary life events are briefly outlined in the booklet. The Tartini concert deserves mention for its central Andante cantabile movement, which is made to sound a little like a performance from a glass harmonica through the rise and fall of pure string tones. The final piece is “Summer” from The Four Seasons, played both sensitively and impressively by all concerned.
This is the kind of CD which is sheer joy from beginning to end, and one you will want to put on again and again, and again. It doesn’t pose difficult questions or set itself up to be the product of any particular kind of historical or intellectual approach to the repertoire. The impression is just that of a bunch of expert musicians getting the very best out of what they are performing, recorded in an ideal environment by a crack production team. Not only for these reasons is this like a breath of fresh Mediterranean air coming through your loudspeakers. With Nicola Benedetti’s remarkably fine playing one always has the impression that the rest of the musicians are at the peak of their abilities, raising their game and playing their socks off to make this a very fine disc indeed.
Dominy Clements
Molto molto bene, giocare di nuovo …