Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)
Violin Concerto in A major, D.96
Violin Concerto in B flat major, D.117
Violin Concerto in G major, D.78
Violin Concerto in E minor, D.56
Violin Concerto in G major, D.83
Salvatore Accardo (violin)
I Musici (D.96, 117 & 78); English Chamber Music (D.78, 56 & 83)
rec. 5-7 September 1973, Salle des Remparts, La tour de Peltz, Switzerland (D.96, 117 & 78); 26-27 February 1982, St. Barnabas Church, North Finchley, London, England (D.78, 56 & 83)
ELOQUENCE 482 5079 [61:51 + 42:14]
There could hardly be a better combination than Salvatore Accardo and I Musici on the first disc of this collection of Tartini's Violin Concertos. In these works, which straddle the Baroque and Classical eras, the performers are at one in the way they bring out the formal elegance of the music's structure with sparkle and buoyancy demonstrating the ways in which Tartini foreshadowed composers such as Haydn and Boccherini. But a balanced contrast is struck with the Baroque character of the music: Accardo steps out seamlessly from his integrated playing with I Musici in the recurring ritornello sections for all the instrumentalists and into the limelight as the soloist in the intervening sections, presaging the more fully developed concertos of Mozart, for example, with the almost Classically refined profile of their melodies.

In the latter Accardo pursues the melodic line like a golden thread with sweet, soft-toned phrases that embody a richer timbre than authentic-practice performers would countenance today, but is not so lustrously Romantic as to unsettle the overall balance of these poised interpretations. That effect is most stunning in the rapt slow movements where the simplicity of Tartini's writing is invested by the performers with a profound emotional character - in the case of the Concerto in G D.78, the Largo andante is scored simply for the soloist over soft pulsing quavers from the two orchestral violin parts alone. Even where the music becomes more strenuous, as in the contrapuntal first movement of the B flat Concerto and its cadenza, Accardo retains composure of tone and the linear unity of the music's long phrases.

Equally impressive is the panache with which both Accardo and I Musici realise the more florid aspects of Tartini's writing, where ornamental triplets remain under consummate control, as do the frothy execution of trills, especially in the first movement of the A major Concerto. Accardo's embellishments of the solo line in the repeated sections of some movements may take too many liberties for some, such as in the above-mentioned G major Concerto. But there is no doubting the stylishness with which he carries that off, and the nature of his embellishments certainly take their cue from those written into Tartini's score.

As an early ensemble which similarly turned from older-fashioned ideas about the performance of Baroque music towards a lighter-footed charisma, whilst still using modern instruments, the English Chamber Orchestra's performances on the second disc complement those by I Musici on the first. The ECO are a little more sturdy and forthright than their Italian counterparts whose crisp textures sound as though achieved more or less effortlessly. But, if anything, Accardo delivers the solo part with a sweeter daintiness, sustaining more of a contrast between his contribution and that of the ECO's. This re-issued double CD set provides a welcome confirmation of Accardo's reputation as a performer whose unmannered but characterful playing is as enticing in the music of the Baroque era as it is in the Romantic Concerto warhorses.

Curtis Rogers

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