Alessandro ROLLA (1757-1841)
Violin Concerto in B flat major, BI 523 [18:53]
Violin Concerto in D major, BI 508 [20:37]
Violin Concerto in A major, BI 522 [20:55]
Orchestra da Camera del Conservatorio di Mantova/Paolo Ghidoni (violin and conductor)
rec. October 2011, Girolamo Cavazzoni Hall, Conservatory of Mantua
DYNAMIC CDS 714 [60:30]
Dynamic has done much to promote the art of Pavia-born Alessandro Rolla. The solo violinist and composer was a distinguished orchestral leader, not least at the theatre at La Scala in Milan, which orchestra he joined in 1802 direct from a similar position in Parma. By 1812 he was being talked of as the leading native fiddle player and he earned the respect, over the years, of Spohr, Paganini and Bazzini.
He composed nearly 600 works, of which there are 21 violin concertos. The three in this disc are undated in the manuscripts and it has proved impossible, stylistically, to ground them with any certainty. Certainly it’s known that his earliest experiments in the genre were published in the years between 1788 and 1794. It would be interesting to know, though I appreciate it may now be impossible to know, whether these three works were the products of his last years in Parma, or his early to mid period in Milan.
There isn’t much disharmony between the three. They are very recognisably the work of the same composer; no great advances in architecture, texture or novelty can be detected beyond the embrace, in the A major, of a dance feature in the finale. They call for a chamber-sized orchestra, here 5-6-3-3-1, and the soloist-conductor is the sweet-toned Paolo Ghidoni. The band is drawn from students, former students and teachers at the conservatory in Mantua, though a look at the band’s personnel in these recordings shows that three members are drawn from the University of Parma. Aside from the strings there are two oboes and two horns.
Rolla was a composer of gallant certainties, and the B flat major concerto revels in long-breathed melody, a gracious and rather vocalised slow movement - in Rolla’s case slow movements tend to brevity - and a tastefully elegant finale. His finales trade in episodes, sometimes three or four, invariably with a brief and plangent (but not too plangent) detour to the minor. The D major is another deft example of Italianate confidence. Here the oboes have a more definite character. The writing is idiomatic and clearly the work of a soloist; not many contrapuntal touches, though maybe there are hints at Mozart from time to time. Another of his ploys is to plunge the slow movement into a remote key from that of the opening, which is something he does here. Ghidoni plays with a light bow, and he avoids making a big sound, prefering legato elegance to over-assertion in this kind of repertoire. The A major seems to inhabit, formally at least, a fluent Viennese cosmopolitanism and Rolla uses the string body to provide a divan of sound for the lyrical soloist above. For the finale, in a slightly unexpected turn, he employs a polonaise rhythm, though it’s not very marked and doesn’t overly draw attention to itself.
Small in scale though not necessarily in reach, these concertos fare well here. They have been pretty well recorded, and annotated. However it’s only fair to point out that the concertos will appeal largely to Rolla adherents.
Jonathan Woolf
These concertos fare well here but will appeal largely to Rolla adherents. 
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