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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Per Pisendel
Violin Sonata in C (RV 2) [16:53]
Violin Sonata in G (RV 25) [12:20]
Violin Sonata in c minor (RV 6) [15:34]
Violin Sonata in A (RV 28) [7:36]
Violin Sonata in F (RV 19) [17:43]
G.A.P. Ensemble
(Emilio Percan (violin), Oriol Aymat (cello), Rafael Bonavita (lute, guitar), Luca Quintavalle (harpsichord, organ))
rec. 23-26 February 2016, Auditori Josep Carreras, Vila-seca, Spain DDD
PAN CLASSICS PC10358 [70:19]

The music library of the Dresden court orchestra is one of the main sources of compositions from the pen of Antonio Vivaldi. That is largely due to the fact that Johann Georg Pisendel, generally considered the most brilliant violinist of his generation in Germany, was a great admirer of the Venetian master. That goes back to his meeting with Vivaldi himself, when he was part of the retinue of the Saxon electoral prince Friedrich August on his third sojourn in Italy in 1716/17. At the time he was first violinist in the orchestra and deputy of the concertmaster Jean Baptiste Volumier. Friedrich August spent some time in Venice which offered Pisendel the opportunity to look around and meet musicians of name and fame. Among them were Tomaso Albinoni and Antonio Vivaldi. Both gave him some of their music and the present disc comprises the five sonatas which Vivaldi presented to him with the dedication "fatto per M. Pisendel".

This dedication is one of various indications that Vivaldi did not consider Pisendel a pupil but a colleague. In his liner notes Bernhard Blattmann mentions several facts which point in the same direction. "[Only] four of the movements of the five sonatas have been given character indications because Vivaldi would have known for sure that a musician as experienced as Pisendel would be able to grasp the character and the right tempo of the movements without any instructions".

The sonatas are very different in structure. Only two have the then common four movements. The Sonata in c minor (RV 6) is the early version of the seventh sonata of the twelve so-called 'Manchester sonatas' which Vivaldi in 1726 presented to the musical patron Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni. In the Manchester version he adapted the bass line and several passages in the violin part. A particular virtuosic piece is the Sonata in A (RV 29) whose first two movements include much double-stopping; in the second movement Vivaldi makes use of the technique of bariolage. Double-stopping also appears in the closing movement of the Sonata in C (RV 2) which bears the traces of the influence of folklore.

It is also one of the two sonatas where this recording has something additional to offer in comparison to other recordings. The fourth movement is a sarabande, with the tempo indication allegro. This movement is on the verso page of the final manuscript sheet and is not in Vivaldi's hand but written down by Pisendel. Blattmann suggests that this could be a later addition or that this indicates the sonatas being written in close cooperation between the two men. This brings us to an interesting question: did Vivaldi offer Pisendel sonatas which he had already in stock or did he compose them specifically for him? Blattmann seems to tend to the latter, judging by his notes on the Sonata in G (RV 25) which has the texture of a suite. He sees here some affinity with the French suite and suggests that Vivaldi could have written this sonata to be a reminiscence to Pisendel's sojourn in Paris in 1714. Whereas in other recordings this sonata comprises six movements here we get an additional movement, in the form of a siciliano. The autograph shows that this - the fourth movement in the present recording - is a later addition to the original.

Because of these two additional movements this disc is an interesting addition to the discography. I am sure any Vivaldi lover will be delighted to add it to his collection, also because Emilio Percan and his colleagues deliver outstanding performances. I have reviewed two previous discs by these artists and I was impressed by both of them. I labelled their first disc Recording of the Month (review). The main attraction of that disc was the music of the little-known composer Giovanni Antonio Piani. We have more familiar repertoire here but Vivaldi's sonatas are certainly not often played or recorded. Percan shows a good sense for the theatrical traits of these sonatas. The contrasts come off convincingly; the tempo di minuetto which closes the Sonata in G is a good example. Percan impresses with a speechlike manner of playing which comes to the fore in his phrasing and articulation and he also clearly differentiates between good and bad notes. His sense of rhythm is impressively displayed in the andante con variazioni which ends the Sonata in F and this disc. There is just one issue I want to mention: in some sonatas Luca Quintavalle changes from harpsichord to organ and vice versa between movements. This is a widespread practice but I am still not able to figure out what the reasons for that may be. On stylistic and historical grounds I am not in favour.

However, that is only a very small detail. This is a most delightful and often even exciting disc. If you love the baroque violin you won't like to miss it.

Johan van Veen



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