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Carlo Ambrogio LONATI (c.1645-c.1712)
Sonate da chiesa from “XII Sonate a violin solo e basso” Salzburg 1701
Sonata No. 1 in D major [12:16]
Sonata No. 2 in G minor [9:09]
Sonata No. 3 in D minor [11:42]
Sonata No. 5 in E minor [10:45]
Sonata No. 6 in A minor [13:25]
Ars Antiqua Austria
rec. 2017, Augustinerstift St Florian, Austria
PAN CLASSICS PC10387 [57:27]

Carlo Ambrigio Lonati was by all accounts a unique presence in Italian music. In the service of Queen Christina of Sweden from 1673, he became known as the "Queen's Hunchback" ('Il Gobbo della Regina'), but was also considered by Francesco Maria Veracini and others as one of the most virtuoso violinists of his century. In his well-written booklet notes, Gunar Letzbor, the ensemble’s violinist, indicates that, alongside Biber and Casanova, Lonati would be one of the three figures from the Baroque era that he would most like to meet. Lonati belongs very much in the stylistic world of the Baroque, drawing on Biber’s elaborations and scordatura techniques, the only surviving manuscript to be found in Dresden, where Bach’s technical advisor on matters connected with the violin, Georg Pisendel, is likely to have taken it. It is thought that the fugues in these Church Sonatas served as models for J.S. Bach.

The published scores of these sonatas relate not so much to their period of composition as a move towards competing with Corelli’s violin sonatas, also published in 1701. The music world was already moving on by then however, and Lonati’s work would have been considered somewhat unfashionable amongst some musicians by the turn of the century, though his example as a role model meant his name was still long respected amongst violin virtuosos.

Played with organ and theorbo continuo, these recordings have a nice sonority and are well balanced to allow the soloist to shine, without obscuring the other musician’s harmonic and rhythmic support. Slow movements such as the Sostenuto of Sonata No. 2 have a gorgeous expressive quality, and while these are designated ‘church’ sonatas there is no lack of fun in movements with a lively dance character, such as the Giga that concludes this sonata. Letzbor is good at pointing out interesting features in these sonatas in his booklet notes, such as the “wild canon” in the first movement of the Fifth Sonata, and relating playing techniques further along to “tavern fiddlers north of the Alps.” This is a feature that also emerges in the hauntingly fine Sixth Sonata, the only one of these to use scordatura tuning, relating in more ways than one to the work of H.I.F. Biber. Listen out for the monastery bell left in right at the end, a nice touch.

This is an accompanying volume to a previous release by Ars Antiqua Austria that recorded a selection of Lonati’s Sonate da camera, and as there are very few other recordings around with his violin sonatas this Pan Classics edition seems very much the one to have.

Dominy Clements


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