Tomaso ALBINONI (1671 - 1751)
Trattenimenti da camera Op. 6
CD 1
Sonata in C, op. 6,1 [9:23]
Sonata in g minor, op. 6,2 [12:14]
Sonata in B flat, op. 6,3 [8:45]
Sonata in d minor, op. 6,4 [10:14]
Sonata in F, op. 6,5 [9:28]
Sonata in a minor, op. 6,6 [10:45]
CD 2
Sonata in D, op. 6,7 [8:51]
Sonata in e minor, op. 6,8 [10:35]
Sonata in G, op. 6,9 [10:46]
Sonata in c minor, op. 6,10 [10:44]
Sonata in A, op. 6,11 [9:08]
Sonata in B flat, op. 6,12 [11:40]
Sergio Balestracci (recorder), Silvia Rambaldi (harpsichord)
rec. 8-14 June 2003, former refectory of the Basilica di San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy. DDD
NEWTON CLASSICS 8802098 [61:50 + 63:01]
 
Tomaso Albinoni is one of the rare composers in history who wasn't a professional musician, but an amateur, or - as he described himself - a dilettante. His father worked as a manufacturer of playing cards, and after his death Tomaso inherited his business. He left it to his younger brothers to take care of it, and concentrated on composing. This he did with considerable success. Despite being an amateur he was highly respected, and his oeuvre is quite large and versatile. The largest part of his output is music for the theatre, but he also composed various collections of instrumental music.
 
His chamber music entirely comprises music for one or more violins, which reflects his own education as a violinist. Albinoni's music is not as theatrical as that of some of his contemporaries, for instance Vivaldi. Michael Talbot, in his liner-notes, states that "several commentators have pointed to the classical, almost austere quality of his musical language. It is true that chromaticism and emotional display are exceptional, rather than standard features of Albinoni's musical language (...)". That is also the case in the twelve sonatas opus 6 which were printed as Trattenimenti da camera around 1711 in Amsterdam. The tempo indications already suggest a great amount of regularity. All sonatas are in four movements. The standard structure is grave - allegro - adagio - allegro. In a handful of sonatas Albinoni deviates from this, and then only in a single movement; in three sonatas the second movement is a larghetto.
 
One could think that Albinoni follows the example of the Corellian sonata da chiesa, but in fact these sonatas are a mixture of sonata da chiesa and sonata da camera as some movements are dances, like allemanda, corrente and gavotta. They were composed for violin, and as the recorder's tessitura is narrower than the violin's some adaptation is needed. There are two ways of making them playable at the recorder. They can be transposed upwards to another key, or they can be played at the original key, with some passages or individual notes being played an octave higher. The latter option is chosen here. Obviously double-stopping has to be ignored completely.
 
Sergio Balestracci plays two instruments: a treble recorder in F and a tenor recorder in D, also known as voice flute. He gives a nice account of these sonatas, but I would not advise listening to these discs at a stretch. That is not because of the quality of the sonatas, but because of the lack of tension in the performances. These sonatas may not be really dramatic but I believe there is more to them than comes out in Balestracci's interpretations. The use of rubato, a more different treatment of tempi and in particular more dynamic shading - especially in the slow movements - could have wrought wonders. As a result the performances would have been more gestural.
 
Another issue is the performance of the basso continuo. Silvia Rambaldi is a pupil of Jesper Christensen, a strong advocate of full-blooded realisation of the basso continuo. In her hands the basso continuo almost takes the form of a concertante part. At various moments the harpsichord even moves above the recorder, which is quite odd. The basso continuo should deliver not only harmonic support but also should play an important role in the exposition of the rhythmic pulse. In this department Ms Rambaldi's performance falls a bit short. These performances would have been more engaging if the rhythms had been delineated more clearly. Moreover, as important as the harpsichord in this kind of music is, it should never take the attention away from the melody instrument; that is what is sometimes the case here.
 
These critical remarks wonít stop me from assessing this recording positively. Itís just that it could have been better.
 
Johan van Veen
http://www.musica-dei-donum.org
https://twitter.com/johanvanveen
 
Good but could have been better.