The second volume of Peter Sheppard Skærved’s survey of Tartini’s Sonate piccolo
moves us on from numbers 7 to 12, and offers a full 70 minutes of the composer’s extensive cycle, one of the longest such sets of sonatas for any instrument. As noted in the review of the first volume (TOCC0146
), Tartini worked on the Sonate piccole
for many years and they are predicated on ‘nature imitation’ with true bass implications but without the necessity for a written bass. Peter Sheppard Skærved’s own critical edition will be forthcoming soon - there is none other, apparently. It will be based on the manuscript held in the library of the Basilica of S. Antonio in Padua. In his view there are 30 sonatas in Tartini’s hand, not the previously estimated 26 and I assume that all will be made available by Toccata.
As before, and it’s something I’ve noted elsewhere in his choice of microphone placement Sheppard Skærved favours a close-up recording quality, the better to heighten the dramatic harmonics and other effects that Tartini envisaged. His David Matthews solo violin works for Toccata, for example, were also recorded in the church of St John the Baptist, Aldbury, Hertfordshire. This razory aesthetic may be off-putting to some but it reinforces the element of what one might tentatively call modernity in Tartini’s writing. Certainly the A minor appealed to no less a figure than Dallapiccola, who recomposed the sonata’s first movement called it Pastorale
; this is something the soloist points out in his very readable and thought-provoking notes. The complex mechanics and structures of the sonatas continue to impress just how much of an advanced theoretician was Tartini. This same sonata teems with inner contrastive devices, palindromes, self-referential narratives, all capped by a fanfare movement. The G minor is a lot simpler in texture and intent, but sports vague echoes of the Devil’s Trill
sonata in the finale’s trilling escapades. That said, this G minor is altogether more gloomy than that most dramatic of works.
Tartini’s interest in and enthusiasm for birdsong and nature depiction was always subtle. But the folkloric hints in the A major are unmistakeable, especially the penultimate of the five movements in which birdsong and songfulness are fundamental parts of the musical equation. Here one feels quite strongly the violinistic river that runs from Tartini through the entire French School from Kreutzer to Rode and on to Baillot. In the B flat major static and flowing material affords remarkable contrast in method and means, whilst in the E major [No.11] Tartini spins an assured, elegant second movement Allegro
. Sheppard Skærved serves the torment of the G major [No.12] well by his strongly stressed phraseology. Whilst the finale, a theme with variations, is much more compact than the similar variations movement in the A minor - which here lasts nearly 12 minutes - it loses little in expressive power.
All the virtues of the first volume are reprised in this second release, and one waits impatiently for the series to unfold.