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Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)
30 Sonate piccole, Volume 4: Sonatas 19-24 (c.1750-70)
Sonata No.19 in E minor [14:01]
Sonata No. 20 in F minor [10:49]
Sonata No. 21 in A minor [8:20]
Sonata No.22 in E major [12:54]
Sonata No.23 in D major [15:59]
Sonata No.24 in D minor [8:04]
Cantabile in A major [2:02]
Peter Sheppard Skærved (violin)
rec. 2011, St. John the Baptist, Aldbury, Hertfordshire
TOCCATA TOCC0363 [74:09]

Peter Sheppard Skærved is making his inexorable way through Tartini’s vast six-hour Sonate piccole (see TOCC0146, TOCC0208, TOCC0297). By my reckoning he has one volume left, though it should be noted that his Herculean labours were exerted back in 2011, unless the final disc spins any surprises in that respect. I happen to be quoted here in the booklet’s publicity page for the previous three volumes: I wrote of how the violinist honours Tartini’s experimental harmonies, his dissonances and his radical approach. It’s no less the case here, of course, in sonatas 19 to 24, and no less the case that he risks tonal purity and the occasional almost inevitable minuscule fingerboard incident the better to convey the music’s resonant, resinous modernism.

He favours, as always, a close-up recorded perspective, a consistent choice throughout the series of discs. I’ve occasionally wondered how many takes or patching sessions were made, and I’m tempted to think very few. There’s a sense of real through-flow to these performances, single arches of intellectual and musical cogency.

As always Tartini’s piquant imagination proves stimulating. The flighty runs in the second movement Allegro of the E minor and the March elements in this sonata’s finale are alike characterful, and so too the tight trills and encoded birdsong. Tartini’s propensity for trills of this kind, as well as pedal notes, can be gauged from the F major whilst absorption of Vitali’s model enabled him to craft a work as fine as the A minor sonata with its tempestuous marine portraiture.

The nature of his decorated melodies can be explored fully in the opening of the E major – lightly, deftly bowed here – whilst the dignified pathos of his descending lines in the Grave attests to the compact nature of his melancholic slow movements. It’s fortunate that our guide to these sonatas is so good at presenting these narrative elements in the writing. They emerge all the more strongly for being projected so well. The vocalised breadth of the D major’s slow movement, and the softly-voiced finale, are similar examples of the variety and subtlety of both music and its performance.

Lest one not be deceived, the innocent-sounding and brief two-minute Cantabile in A major still manages a quixotic bar or two.

On we go with performances of personality and profound identification.

Jonathan Woolf


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