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Giovanni Battista VITALI (1632-1692)
Sonate a due violini op. 9, 1684
Italico Splendore
rec. 2017, Chiesa di San Girolamo, Bagnacavallo (RA), Italy
TACTUS TC632207 [77:17]

The present disc is part of a series of recordings of Vitali's oeuvre, which on its turn are part of a larger project, aiming at exploring the large library of the Este family. Throughout many centuries the Estes were among the main rulers in Italy and important patrons of the arts. In 1674 Vitali entered the service of Francesco II (1660-1694) as one of the vicemaestri di cappella, a position he held until his death. Vitali was born in Bologna, and was educated as a cellist. He was probably a pupil of Maurizio Cazzati, maestro di cappella of San Petronio. He played a crucial role in the development of the sonata, and especially the trio sonata. He was one of the founders of the famous Accademia Filarmonica in Bologna. He was highly appreciated in his time. The booklet quotes the composer and theorist Giovanni Battista (Padre) Martini, who stated that "he devoted himself so lovingly to the study of music and of the cello instrument that with his compositions he aroused the admiration of the performers and composers of his age".

The largest part of Vitali's oeuvre consists of instrumental music. Two collections comprise trio sonatas, a relatively new genre in his time. The first came from the press as the Op. 2 in 1682. The present disc includes the twelve trio sonatas Op. 9, which were printed two years later. Unfortunately, no copy of the printed edition has been preserved. Therefore the performers had to rely on the manuscript, which is not very well preserved: at some points the paper has been irreparably damaged. "We have carried out a painstaking work of checking and reconstructing - only where we considered it indispensable - and in some points, even if the result is not particularly harmonious or formally correct, we have chosen to accept what history has handed down to us: loose scores, sometimes not devoid of certain mistakes that typically occur in versions that have not yet been printed by some publisher", Micol Vitali states in the booklet.

These trio sonatas represent an interesting stage in the development of the trio sonata. They are not formally divided into different movements, as in particular the trio sonatas by Corelli, but they are more clearly separated than the sonatas which were written in the first half of the century. There is also a closer thematic connection between the movements. The two violins are treated on equal footing, and often they imitate each other. In comparison with his earlier trio sonatas, Vitali turns here to a more daring use of harmony, including dissonances and chromaticism. The number of movements is various, and as they are marked with tempo indications rather than dances, these sonatas fall into the category of the sonata da chiesa. That does not exclude their use in domestic surroundings. This justifies the use of either harpsichord or organ in the basso continuo.

I have reviewed previous recordings of this project, all performed by Italico Splendore, and have assessed them positively, albeit sometimes with slight reservations. This is definitely one of the best discs in this series. The fast movements are played in a lively and dynamically differentiated way, and the slow movement are performed with the right amount of pathos. Thanks to the style of playing and the recording, there is an optimum transparency, which allows the listener to follow Vitali's treatment of polyphony.

If you have purchased one of the previous discs, don't hesitate to add this one to your collection. If you have not, this disc offers an excellent opportunity to get to know Vitali, a composer who deserves to be better known.

Johan van Veen

Disc contents
Sonata No. 11 in D [4:45]
Sonata No. 10 in a minor [5:59]
Sonata No. 5 in e minor [7:41]
Sonata No. 7 in D [4:42]
Sonata No. 6 in g minor [5:01]
Sonata No. 1 in D [6:16]
Sonata No. 4 in C [6:45]
Sonata No. 2 in c minor [6:54]
Sonata No. 12 in C [7:40]
Sonata No. 9 in F [5:36]
Sonata No. 3 in B flat [7:37]
Sonata No. 8 in B flat [7:31]

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