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Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)
30 Sonate piccolo - Volume 3
Sonata No.13 in B minor [9:53]
Sonata No.14 in G major [18:22]
Sonata No.15 in C major [11:50]
Sonata No.16 in D major [9:03]
Sonata No.17 in C major [10:36]
Sonata No.18 in D major [14:53]
Peter Sheppard Skærved (violin)
rec. 2011, St John the Baptist, Aldbury, Hertfordshire, UK

Peter Sheppard Skærved’s complete recording of Tartini’s Sonate Piccole – the first ever attempted - has now reached volume three, though the recordings in this release were set down as long ago as January 2011. Volumes one and two were reviewed earlier (Volume 1 ~ Volume 2). One notices, as before, that he has favoured a close-up recording in the church acoustic, wanting to negate any idea of a billowing sound. Instead there’s a blood-and-guts sound quality, a grainy and sometimes abrasive immediacy that certainly reflects those preferences admirably. That sound quality also serves to make more immediate Tartini’s amazingly forward-looking writing. I stress this matter again as it’s something the listener will have to learn to like, or endure. For most people, however, a brief time is all that’s needed to adjust.

There are six sonatas in this latest disc which means by my calculations that two more volumes are needed to complete the set of thirty. To each of these six Skærved brings his practised and long immersion in Tartini’s rhetoric and musical means to bear. He has had the advantage of performing and musing on these sonatas for many years and this familiarity is audible as he works through the twists and harmonic turns embedded in the music. To the fanfares of the Sonata in B minor he brings a tart elegance. To the cross-referencing material in its Gigue he pays due care and attention. In the big G major, with its seven movements, he brings a deft sense of the dance to its third movement Allegro – though as ever it’s not easy to dance to Tartini.

Where Tartini is spare and allusive harmonically Skærved responds with appropriate reserve. If one hears curious prefiguring of Paganini, as I do in the Andante cantabile of No.15 in C major, then that’s surely a tribute to Tartini’s technical and compositional thinking; so too those sometimes bizarre uses of silence to which he is prone. The quotations from popular songs admit wider influences, as do the instrumental imitations, such as the hurdy-gurdy hints in No.17, hunting motifs, and the use of birdsong. In his booklet note, Skærved admits he is perplexed by the Gravi in this sonata - welcome honesty from a performer who has really got to the heart of this body of work.

Above all he honours Tartini’s experimental harmonies, his dissonances, and his radical approach in these works. There’s something indeed almost Levantine about one of the movements from No.17 and in its nasal otherness Skærved preserves what must have been a startling sound for Tartini’s contemporary audiences. It’s still pretty startling today and for that the performer must take great credit.

Jonathan Woolf



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