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The Fiery Genius - Neopolitan Instrumental Music for 1,2,3, and 4 violins
Leonardo LEO (1694-1744)
Concerto per 4 violini & basso continuo [12.54]
Giovanni Carlo CAILÓ (1659?-1722)
Sonata per violino e basso continuo [8.22]
Pietro MARCHITELLI (1643-1729)
Sonata VIII per due violini e basso [8.55]
Nicola FIORENZA (c.1700-1764)
Concerto di violini e basso [7.30]
Francesco Paolo SUPRIANI (1678-1753)
Toccata V a violoncello solo con la sua diminuzione [5.05]
Giovanni Carlo CAILÓ
Sonata a tre violini e organo [8.48]
Sonata ŕ due violini e cembalo [7.57]
Sonata II per tre violini e basso [9.03]
Ensemble Aurora/Enrico Gatti (violin)
rec. Church of Santa Caterina de Siena, Naples, 2016
ARCANA A429 [68.35]

The term ‘fiery’ in the title of this CD might seem excessive for this charming music, which is not angry, though often brisk and demanding versatility. It is, in reality, a title best ignored: attention belongs to the delightful music by composers unfamiliar to most listeners. There is so much to admire in this release.

Several of the composers have left us only a few pieces from presumably prolific careers. We know more of the life of Giovanni Carlo Cailó than of his works, of which only three sonatas are extant. All are on this disc, leaving one to regret the absence of more of his music. Cailó, himself a violinist, was born in Rome but moved to Naples when musicians of the Royal Chapel in Naples were dismissed and replaced by Roman virtuosi. He was close to both Scarlatti and Corelli, which is helpful as a guide to his own style. In Naples, he became known as the foremost teacher of violin in the city. The Sonata a tre violini e organo has delightful sonorities as well as great technical facility. The Sonata per due violini e cembalo is more conventional in its use of counterpoint, but has many felicities in execution. The Sonata per violino e basso continuo offers a rare combination of sounds and is marked by remarkable virtuosity. These are world-premiere recordings, and it is difficult to imagine better performances.

More has survived – perhaps 30 pieces – of Pietro Marchitelli who played a major role in Neapolitan musical life, not only as leader for five decades of the musicians of the Royal Chapel, but elsewhere, including the San Bartolomeo Theatre. Sonata VIII is traditional in its four-movement structure with striking contrasts between and within the movements. The Sonata seconda is strongly contrapuntal. The first movement is marked Adagio-Allegro-Adagio-Allegro –Adagio, all within a span of a minute and a half. No time for boredom here.

Less is known of Nicola Riorenzo, though he became first violin at the Royal Chapel in 1758. As a teacher he seems to have been robust: complaints surviving say that he would ‘beat [the students] indiscriminately and … draw his sword upon them’. Some listeners compared his music with Haydn’s and the Concerto per violini e basso shows why, especially in the beauties of the largo, which has some of the unexpectedness of a Haydn quartet, with similar audacity.

Leonardo Leo’s Concerto per 4 violini & basso continuo demands attention in its almost peremptory opening, and the concerto as a whole has a theatrical quality, again with the dramatic contrasts found throughout this programme. An exception to the violins of the other composers, Supriani’s Toccata V a violoncello solo con la sua diminuzione is a touching and elaborate work. Designed as a practical exercise, and demanding a substantial technique, it is a lovely piece.

Production values are high, sound quality excellent, and the quality of playing by Enrico Gatti and his colleagues extraordinary in clarity and precision. I shall return often to this recording.

Michael Wilkinson



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