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Angelo Michele BESSEGHI (1670-1744)
Sonate da camera a violino solo col violone o cembalo, Op. 1 (1710)
Rec. December 2015, Chiesa da San Girolamo Bagnacavallo. TACTUS TC670290 [59:03 + 50:20]
There should be a standard introduction for reviewers ready to copy and paste for this kind of release, and here is its variant for this recording: Little is known about the life of Angelo Michele Besseghi, and what sources there are, are not always consistent. He was an 18th century composer-violinist who, according to this 1710 edition of these sonatas, a native of Bologna. Other locations given for him include Rome and Naples, all of which were major centres for music and the arts in the first half of the 18th century. Contradictions aside, Besseghi was noted for his exceptional tone as a player, and there are even records of the Guarneri instrument on which he played.
So much for nebulous biographies. As for these Sonatas Op. 1, their context puts them a decade after Corelli’s famous Op. 5 collection, and it is Corelli who provides the model for much of the music here. Besseghi’s references to his musical forebear appear knowingly in homages that will be clear to anyone with expertise in this field, but it is probably enough to know that if you like Corelli then you will enjoy these sonatas. These pieces are however by no means slavish imitations. Besseghi clearly had an eye for fashion in terms of his music, making his sonatas lively and attractive, with arching lyrical lines, energetic dance rhythms and plenty of expressive space for the violin, which sometimes has the feeling of improvisatory freedom over the rich if not extremely daring harmonies of the harpsichord. There is plenty of inner contrast within each sonata, most of which are set in four movements with alternating slow and fast or dance movements. Not all of the sonatas include gamba and plucked strings, so the scale of chamber music making also varies through the programme. Most are duos, so more importantly the harpsichord used, a ‘French School’ instrument from 1986 by Matthias Kramer, has a mellow and refined tone that is by no means fatiguing to the ear. Entry of the lute with its additional but sympathetic colours can provide magical effects, such as with the opening Adagio of Sonata VIII.
Fabrizio Longo and Opera Qvinta have established a fine reputation on the Tactus label and elsewhere with this kind of repertoire, including sonatas by Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli (review), Angelo Berardi (review) and others. Plaudits must be given for giving a voice to obscure composers, and these performances can be welcomed for their lack of pretension and their stylish expressiveness. Longo’s violin has a nice tone and he will throw in some vibrato from time to time, though the ethos is very much historically informed. One minor negative is that each sonata appears on a single track rather than having access points for each movement, but for general listening this is not such a problem, and with most of the sonatas coming in at under ten minutes you can navigate fairly easily. Angelo Michele Besseghi’s Sonate da camera, op. 1 makes up a fine and entertaining collection, though you will probably want to dip in or play just one CD at a time rather than digesting this substantial and well-recorded set in one go.
Fabrizio Longo (violin), Rosita Ippolito (viola da gamba), Fabiano Merlante (archlute & baroque guitar), Valeria Montanari (harpsichord)