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Per Monsieur Pisendel 2
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Suonata Solo facto per Monsieur Pisendel in A, RV29 [8:57]
Johann Georg PISENDEL (1687-1755)
Sonata for violin and continuo in c minor [14:08]
Antonio MONTANARI (1676-1737)
Sonata for violin and continuo in d minor [8:17]
Tomaso ALBINONI (1671-1751)
Sonata for violin and continuo in B flat [10:29]
Johann Georg PISENDEL
Sonata for violin in a minor [14:47]
Suonata Solo facto per Monsieur Pisendel in F, RV19 [16:45]
La Serenissima (Adrian Chandler (violin), Gareth Deats (cello), Thomas Dunford (theorbo), Robert Howarth (harpsichord and organ))
rec. 2014, Hospital of St. Cross, Winchester, England. DDD.
AVIE AV2308 [74:30]

Hardly unexpectedly, the most onerous thing about reviewing this CD proved to be typing in all the performance details. It’s some time since La Serenissima delighted us with what I believe was their debut album, Per Monsieur Pisendel 1 (AV0018). Johan van Veen thought the performances there virtuosic but superficial – review; other reviewers thought highly of it. I’ve heard just about every recording that they have made since then and enjoyed them all, including this sequel.

The works which Vivaldi wrote for Pisendel are comparatively well known: there’s a good selection of five Concerti per Pisendel on Nave OP30538 – review and DL News 2013/11. Appointed to the Dresden court at the tender age of 25, he travelled to Venice and studied with Vivaldi and made the acquaintance of the other two Italians whose music is included on this CD: Albinoni and Montanari.

The subtitle of the album – 6 Virtuoso Violin Sonatas of the Baroque – my italics – states what to expect. The first four works are of the sonata da chiesa type, established by Corelli, though apparently not so named by him: slow-fast-slow-fast. The Albinoni (tracks 13-16) is a suite of dances – an opening Allemanda (larghetto) and three fast sections and the final Vivaldi sonata (trs. 20-24) varies the da chiesa type by adding a final fast movement as a fitting conclusion to the programme. There is little for the continuo instruments to do, especially as some of the sonatas are marked solo.

Pisendel’s own compositions are few in number but the two here can hold up their heads in this distinguished company: though clearly influenced by Italian models, he was also his own man and the sonata in a minor is believed to have inspired Bach’s solo violin sonatas and partitas. It is in many ways the most striking work on this album.

There are two fine alternatives, from Rachel Podger (Channel Classics CCSSA35513) and Amandine Beyer (Zig-Zag Territoires ZZT110902). The Beyer recording is particularly interesting in that it couples the Pisendel Sonata with the Bach works which it inspired; otherwise Adrian Chandler holds his own with the distinguished competition. There are alternatives for the other works, too, except the Montanari, but unless you particularly want the couplings on those rival recordings La Serenissima are well up to the challenge.

One recording of the Vivaldi Sonatas for Pisendel from Baltic Baroque on Estonian Records failed to receive Brian Reinhart’s blessing, though I liked it a little more – DL News 2013/12 and 2013/13. If only RV19 on that recording had been as good as the gloriously energetic version which closes the new Avie CD: significantly it’s almost a minute faster. Speed is not the only factor, however: La Serenissima impress more with the opening RV29 even though they are significantly slower than Baltic Baroque.

The performances are scholarly: A is tuned to 400 and Valloti and Young temperament is employed. The average listener, however, need not bother with such matters: scholarship nowhere gets in the way of enjoyment. The repertoire may be a little less mainstream than some of La Serenissima’s other recordings but still enjoyable. If you haven’t yet obtained their two volumes entitled The French Connection (AV2178: I liked this more in DL Roundup December 2009 than my colleague who listened to the CD – review – and AV2218 – DL Roundup August 2011/2), that’s probably the best place to get to know their work.

The recording is very good: bright and forward but not unduly so, and the booklet of notes is informative. I returned to Volume 1 immediately afterwards and I still like it as much as I remember. I certainly enjoyed this successor very much. Sample it fromQobuz or Naxos Music Library – both with pdf booklet – and I believe that you will agree.

Brian Wilson



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