Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)
Secondo Natura (According to Nature)
Sonata in F major Op.1 No.12 B.F4 [20:12]
The Devil's Sonata B.G5 [19:04]
Pastorale in A major Op.1 No.13 B.A16 [12:02]
Sigurd Imsen (baroque violin and Hardanger fiddle)
Tormod Dalen (baroque cello)
Hans Knut Sveen (cembalo)
rec. Jar Church, Norway, June 2014
Blu-ray Audio; Stereo/Surround 5.1 DTS HDMA 24/192 Surround 5.1 (used for review), LPCM 24/192 Stereo + mShuttle and FLAC
2L 2L-112-PABD [51:18]

2L seems to exist on the production of spectacular recordings of excellent performances of odd repertoire. One has to respect and indeed praise this specialist company for its efforts. This Tartini disc adds yet another lustrous issue to the rota. As usual the recording is magnificent and the accompanying documentation interesting and readable. Can you hear the 'but' approaching? I do wish they had been more explicit on the outer packaging about what was actually on the disc, and also more factually informative about the music and the composer in the notes, interesting though the notes are.

To be clear: this is a group of three trio sonatas, adding up to a little over 50 minutes music, by the interesting, but perhaps second-rank, Giuseppe Tartini. One of the performances is given on the Hardanger fiddle instead of the violin. There is a little about the fiddle in the notes but it is well suited to making the sounds of peasant merrymaking and indeed is used in the work intended by Tartini for performance on a violin tuned scordatura, effectively mistuned to non-conventional notes. In the Pastorale the G string is supposed to be tuned up to A and the D up to E and the other two strings left as normal. This is close to the standard tuning of the Hardanger fiddle on ADAE - but this has also a set of sympathetic strings beneath the main four to add colour. It sounds lovely.

Each of the sonatas has three movements and they are quite substantial pieces. Two of them are from Tartini's Opus 1 set - more accurately one of the Opus 1 sets because the Tartini publication history is complex and sometimes the same works got published by different publishers in different sized sets. The more mysterious is the 'Devil's Sonata' which, it appears, is not the famous 'Devil's Trill', which is for solo violin and in G minor not G major and in any case has different movement markings. None of this is explored or even mentioned in the notes. These focus on Tartini's theoretical writings and his place in the 'proto-romantic' period of the Age of Enlightenment. This explains the obscure title of the disc Secondo Natura because Tartini believed he was inspired by 'the imitation of Nature'. He saw Nature (note the capital) as superior to the manmade art of music and the less his compositions owed to musical artifice the better they became. Make of all that what you will. For me Tartini's music lacks the vitality and imagination of Vivaldi and the gravity and imagination of Handel, Corelli and Bach. It does however make for superb baroque easy listening in these magnificent performances.

Dave Billinge

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