Carlo Antonio MARINO (1670-1735)
Concerto a 5* [7:55]
Concerto a 5 con due violini obbligati*/** [10:10]
Sonata II a 3, op. 6,2 [6:36]
Sonata IV a 3, op. 6,4 [6:00]
Sonata VI a 3, op. 6,6 [5:32]
Sonata VIII a 4, op. 6,8 [7:48]
Sonata X a 4, op. 6,10 [3:12]
Sonata XII a 4, op. 6,12 [5:29]
Stefano Montanari*, Cesare Zanetti** (violin)
Ensemble Barocco Carlo Antonio Marino/Natale Arnoldi TACTUS TC671302 [53:12]
In the more than thirty years that I have been reviewing discs of early music, quite a number of CDs from the Italian label Tactus have landed on my desk. Many of them are very interesting in that they include repertoire which is little-known and often by composers that only experts have heard of. However, although I have heard many fine interpretations, the quality of Tactus discs is variable. Now and then this record company releases discs of a rather mediocre quality. The present disc falls into that category, I'm afraid.
Carlo Antonio Marino was an unknown quantity to me until I heard this disc. The information about his life and work in New Grove is confined to two short paragraphs. The booklet to the present disc contains little additional information. The most interesting part of it is that Marino was probably the violin teacher of Pietro Antonio Locatelli, according to the latter's biographer Albert Dunning. Locatelli was from Bergamo and here Marino's family lived from shortly after his birth in nearby Albino. Various members of his family were in the service of S Maria Maggiore, and so was our composer who started his career as a treble in the church choir. He was educated as a violinist and cellist and played in the former capacity in the church's string orchestra for most of his life. He also played in various opera orchestras in northern Italy.
Marino's extant oeuvre includes eight collections of music, published between 1687 and 1705, either in Bologna or in Venice, by some of the main music printers. This attests to his reputation as a composer. Only the op. 4 includes vocal music: twelve (secular) cantatas for solo voice and basso continuo. The other collections comprise instrumental music for various strings and continuo. In addition there are three violin concertos which have been preserved in manuscript. Two of them are included here.
The violin parts in these concertos are technically more demanding than those in the sonatas. That can be explained from the fact that solo concertos were mostly intended for professional players whereas trio sonatas were written for the growing market of musical dilettantes. The opening concerto is for solo violin, the second for two violins. They are of the type which was common before Vivaldi laid the foundation of the ritornello concerto form with three movements. Here the order is like that of the Corellian trio sonata: slow - fast - slow - fast. Especially in the closing allegro from the solo concerto we find some double stopping.
The rest of the programme is devoted to six sonatas from the op. 6 which was printed in Venice in 1701. This collection is split into two halves: the first six sonatas are for two violins, cello and bc, the sonatas 7 to 12 for two violins, viola, cello and bc. New Grove is incorrect here in counting eight of the former and four of the latter category. It also adds that these are sonate da chiesa: that is correct as far as the titles of the movements are concerned. The titles also mention specifically the organ as the instrument to play the basso continuo. However, as Natale Arnoldi explains in the booklet, this should not lead to the conclusion that these sonatas are written for ecclesiastical use. The sonate a 4 include movements with a dance-like character and are likely written "for a more profane use".
The indication sonate a 3 for the first six sonatas suggests traditional trio sonatas to be played with one instrument per part. That is not how they are played here. "The brilliant characteristics, the solos of the first violin that contrast with the Tutti, and the choice of a structure in which the upper melodic line prevails, are expedients that seem to require a group of instruments in which the violin parts are doubled", Arnoldi states in the booklet. He may be right but it needs to be said that the indications of solo and tutti appear very seldom - in fact only in both violin parts in the second and the eighth sonata - and one wonders why they don't appear more often if the composer intended a performance with more than one instrument per part.
With Stefano Montanari the ensemble has attracted one of Italy's most renowned violinists and he doesn't disappoint. The concertos are the best part of this disc. In comparison the sonatas don't come off that well. The playing lacks subtlety and often the intonation is suspect. That is all the more noticeable as the miking has been pretty close. The sound is not always nice to listen to.
Marino's music has made a good impression on me and I definitely would like to hear more but this recording is not the most convincing argument for this forgotten master.