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Jonathan Woolf
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Alessandro ROLLA (1757-1841)
Chamber Music
rec. 1997-2002
PAN CLASSICS PC10383 [7 CDs: 426:30]

Alessandro Rolla’s music has managed to keep a toe-hold on the outer fringes of the repertory. It’s primarily his chamber music that has survived and specifically his help in emancipating still further the viola as a virtuosic voice in its own right. Thus, his Duos for violin and viola have remained intriguing, just as much as the later duets of Fuchs, and it’s valuable that they play so important a part in this box. That said, nothing here is new to Rolla’s discography as the recordings date from the period 1997-2002.

Violinist Ruggero Marchesi and violist Stefano Marcocchi form the backbone of the box. It’s they who play the three Op.7 Duets which, with their sense of fluidity and elegance, reveal the Italianate songfulness of the writing, its eloquent and operatically-derived sense of lyricism. Such giocoso features, as well as its charming Rossianian qualities, vest a sense of liveliness to the writing, not least in a movement such as the Polonese of the D minor Duet. It so happens that several years after this recording the better-known pairing of Isabelle Faust and Thomas Riebl duplicated Op.7 No.2 and the Adagio from Op.7 No.1 adding Op.4 No.2, Op.9 and Op.13. Bizarrely there’s nothing in the notes about this disc and its music but where they overlap the Faust-Riebl duo are by far the zestier and more characterful, for all the Italian duo’s hard-working musicianship. The beautiful slow movement of Op.4 No.2 is a highlight of this second disc just as much as the piety of the Beethovenian Adagio of Op.9 – even if the recording is over-bright.

The two Violin Sonatas, where Marchesi is joined by pianist Roberto Guglielmo, are Beethovenian to a fault. They’re both cast in three movements with bouncy Rondo finales. The Larghetto of No.1 is spare but effective. The other works were published posthumously. The Piccolo Adagio e tema con variazioni has a long piano introduction and presages a sequence of variations, not always backed up by the most progressive or interesting passagework, whilst the Divertimento follows the same ground plan. The Trios Op.1 probably date from Rolla’s mid-twenties and are pleasing and largely undemanding but have a strong concertante role for the violinist. Fond of variation form, the second movement is quite rakish in this respect and there’s a brief, though effective, opportunity for cantilena in the slow movement of the C major trio. There’s something quasi-orchestral about the writing for the G major – it reminds one of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in places – whilst the Polonese finale offers a reminiscence of the Duets.

The 1827 Trios are works without opus number and very different in feel. They’re quite late works for one thing and far more textured and virtuosic. Rolla’s gift for lyricism is intact – lend an ear to the lovely slow movement of the C minor which is much more overtly expressive than the earlier works and to the rather insouciant Pagananiesque drama of the Rondo finale of the A major. Though in point of fact Rolla, as Paganini’s teacher, is commonly supposed to have influenced the younger player; maybe one should speak more of Paganini’s Rollaesque technical excursions. The three Quartets Op.2 exude the influences of Rode and Spohr. However, the gaunt unisons of the opening of the F minor show once more Rolla’s indebtedness to Beethoven even though the dainty Minuet trio is hardly the last word in Beethovenian vigour. The ensuing slow movement again seems to evoke the quasi-religious and is extremely concise. There’s some rather rough playing in the opening movement of the C major – not this particular group’s finest nine minutes.

The final disc, all 28 minutes of it, is given over to an anomaly, Rolla’s Violin Concerto, in A major, BI521, composed in 1802. It’s the only non-chamber piece in the 7CD box. Touted as a bonus disc – perhaps that explains why there’s nothing about it in the booklet notes – it again features Marchesi as intrepid protagonist. The opening movement is overlong, though it sports a fine cadenza. The slow movement features an interpolation from Giuseppe Farinelli’s La Giullieta whilst the finale is jovial and aerial. There have been several recordings of Rolla’s concertos of late but this A minor performance, from 2002, offers a solid mainstream interpretation.

As a reissue it’s a shame that the documentation – good as it is – is a little sloppy with regard to missing works. Otherwise this is a solid though not spectacular offering.

Jonathan Woolf

Track listing

CD1 [66:47]
Duo, Op. 7 No. 1 in C major, B137 [19:19]
Duo, Op.7 No. 2 in E flat major, B160 [24:27]
Duo, Op.7 No.3 in D minor, B150 [22:59]
Ruggero Marchesi (violin): Stefano Marocchi (viola)

CD2 [65:58]
Duet, Op.13 in B flat major [15:14]
Duet, Op.4 No.2 in C minor [16:25]
Duo, Op.7 No. 2 in E flat major, B160 [18:05]
Duet Op.9 in C major [9:47]
Duo, Op. 7 No. 1 in C major: Adagio, B137 [4:47]
Isabelle Faust (violin): Thomas Riebl (viola)

CD3 [58:30]
Violin Sonata no.1, BI294 (pub 1811) [14:52]
Violin Sonata no.2, BI291 (pub 1811) [19:42]
Piccolo Adagio e Tema con Variazioni in D minor, BI290 (pub posth. 1843) [9:23]
Divertimento in G minor, BI295 (pub posth. 1842) [14:06]
Ruggero Marchesi (violin): Roberto Guglielmo (piano)

CD4 [61:40]
String Trio No. 1 in F major, Op.1, BI346 [19:46]
String Trio No. 2 in C major, Op.1, BI341 [17:54]
String Trio No. 3 in G major, Op.1, BI347 [24:13]
Ruggero Marchesi (violin): Stefano Marocchi (viola): Jorge Daniel Rossi (cello)

CD5 [71:00]
String Trio No. 1 in A major (1827) [23:17]
String Trio No. 2 in C minor (1827) [23:57]
String Trio No. 3 in D major (1827) [23:32]
Il Trio Concertante; Corrado Bolsi (violin): Angelo Bartoletti (viola): Gaetano Nasillo (cello)

CD6 [74:42]
String Quartet Op.2 No.1 in A major, BI410 (pub 1823) [26:23]
String Quartet Op.2 No.2 in F minor, BI405 (pub 1823) [22:19]
String Quartet Op.2 No.3 in C major, BI397 (pub 1823) [25:45]
Ruggero Marchesi (violin): Roberto Ilaxqua (violin): Stefano Marocchi (viola): Jorge Daniel Rossi (cello)

CD7 [27:53]
Violin Concerto in B flat major, BI523 [27:53]
Ruggero Marchesi (violin)/Orchestra Sinfonica della Provincia di Matera/Fernando Alvarez



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