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Jonathan Woolf
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1717: Memories of a Journey to Italy
Tomaso ALBINONI (1669-1751)
Sonata for violin and continuo in B flat major TalAl So32 [11:20]
Giuseppe Maria FANFANI (? – c.1757)
Sonata for violin and continuo in D major [9:31]
Giuseppe VALENTINI (1681-1753)
Sonata for violin and continuo in A major [13:29]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Sonata for violin and continuo in G Major, RV 25 ‘Suonata à Solo fatto per Maestro Pisendel Del Vivaldi’ [10:55]
Antonio MONTANARI (1676-1737)
Sonata for violin and continuo in E minor [8:39]
Johann Georg PISENDEL (1687-1755)/Antonio MONTANARI (1676-1737)
Sonata for violin and continuo in E major [8:23]
rec. 2018, De Oude Dorpskerk Bunnik, Netherlands

A piece of imaginative programming sees the listener embroiled in an Italian sojourn in 1717. The listener is, in effect, Johann Georg Pisendel who travelled from Dresden, where as one of the continent’s leading virtuosi he led the orchestra, to a number of Italian towns meeting the musical great and good of the time. The travels are reflected in the music enshrined in this disc and as a composer and copyist and collector of a vast number of scores, Pisendel is an excellent figure to follow.

Thus, whilst the disc is composer-led, naturally, it reflects the geography of Pisendel’s journeying, from Venice (Vivaldi and Albinoni) to Rome (Montanari and Valentini) and to Florence (Fanfani). Some composers are clearly more famous than others, but all are of interest, both historically and musicologically.

The musical travelogue cum diary memorializes Pisendel’s journey. It also reveals how bonds sprung up between the German and his Italian host composers. Vivaldi’s’ Sonata RV25, for example, carries a dedication to Pisendel from the composer and leaves him room to insert his own movement so as to form a composite sonata (the movement is the second one, a Grave). Albinoni too admired the young violinist dedicating in particular his Sonata in B flat major to him. Not only that, but it may well encode some aspects of Pisendel’s performing style, given that it reveals some unusual features for the composer.

There are also world premiere recordings to be savoured, such as the recently recognized sonata by the Florentine Giuseppe Maria Fanfani, clearly predicated on Corellian models, but sporting some illuminating idiosyncrasies such as the exotic flights of its Allegro second movement and the sophisticated and stylistically advanced series of variations. Fanfani died in 1757, but his birthdate is unknown, and it would be interesting to know how old he was when he wrote this splendid, often forward-looking work.

Pisendel isn’t the only great fiddler to be encountered here, as there is also Antonio Montanari to consider, a towering presence in Italy at the time of Pisendel’s visit and successor to Corelli. Pisendel sought the older man’s instruction and it’s fascinating to listen to a world premiere recording of the German’s Sonata in E major, authenticated as late as 2005, which contains Montanari’s corrections (the original manuscript is lost). Giuseppe Valentini’s sonata is dedicated to Montanari and it is clear from the writing that the latter must have been a player of exceptional breadth and lyricism as well as virtuosity.

These sequences of concordances, cross-references and joint-authorships cast revealing light on compositional processes at the time. The performances are consistently persuasive and full of flair and sensitivity. Javier Lupiáñez, who takes on the burden of Pisendel, plays on a Gisbert Verbreek violin of 1682, whilst cellist Inés Salinas and harpsichordist Patrícia Vintém play on copies, the former of a Francesco Ruggieri, and the latter of a copy of a double manual Mietke. They play at a=415 and have been recorded in a church acoustic that occasionally subordinates the continuo. The notes are first class and full of illuminating detail and the whole disc shows how fine musicality and investigative historical research can pay real rewards.

Jonathan Woolf

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