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Venice and Beyond
Antonio LOTTI (c1667-1740)
Sonata à 4 for two oboes, bassoon and bc in B flat [11:03]
Antonio CALDARA (1670-1736)
Clori, mia bella Clori, cantata:
Sinfonia for recorder, oboe and bc in G [03:31]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerto for recorder, oboe, bassoon and bc in g minor (RV 103) [09:36]
Baldassare GALUPPI (1706-1785)
Sonata à 3 for transverse flute, oboe and bc in G [09:55]
Giovanni Battista FERRANDINI (c1710-1791)
Sonata for oboe and bc in a minor, op. 2,2 [08:32]
Giuseppe BRESCIANELLO (c1690-1758)
Concerto for oboe, bassoon and bc in B flat [11:24]
Giovanni Benedetto PLATTI (c1697-1763)
Sonata for oboe, cello and bc in g minor [12:35]
rec. 2018, Pfarrkirche, Klagenfurt St. Martin, Austria
Reviewed as 16/44 download with pdf booklet from Outhere
ARCANA A119 [66:34]

In Italy, woodwind instruments played a minor role during the second half of the 17th century. The oboe was basically a French invention, whereas instruments such as the transverse flute and the bassoon underwent a substantial change, turning them from renaissance to baroque instruments. The recorder had been used frequently in the late renaissance and the first half of the 17th century, but was sporadically played afterwards. This all changed after the turn of the century. The oboe had disseminated across Europe, and had become particularly popular in Germany. As late as 1698 the chapel of San Marco in Venice dismissed its last cornett player; his place was taken by Onofrio Penati, a virtuoso on the oboe, who was paid the highest salary of the entire orchestra. This tells us something about his reputation, but probably also about the appreciation of the new instrument.

Double-reeds, like the oboe, were almost exclusively played by professional musicians. The preparation of reeds was a time-consuming activity whose technique took years to hone and was fiercely guarded by musicians themselves. As a consequence not that much music was published which was specifically intended for the oboe. In particular collections of sonatas were aimed at the growing market of amateurs, and as only a few of them were able to play the oboe, this instrument was mostly mentioned as one of the alternatives, alongside instruments such as the recorder and the transverse flute.

The first Italian composers who gave the oboe full attention were Tomaso Albinoni and Antonio Vivaldi. It seems that Albinoni was the first to compose oboe concertos; he certainly was the first to publish such pieces. Vivaldi also wrote a large number of oboe concertos and gave the instrument an important role in his chamber music. In the manuscript of one of his sonatas, he made a note of the players chosen to perform it. The name of the oboist was Pellegrina, who was a pupil of Ludwig Erdmann, a Prussian wind player who was employed as a teacher at the Ospedale della Pietà. She may well have been involved in the performance of Vivaldi's Concerto in g minor (RV 103) as well. It has the form of a concerto da camera, in which the three melody instruments - recorder, oboe and bassoon - are treated on equal footing.

The disc opens with the Sonata à 4 in B flat by Antonio Lotti. He has become best-known for his vocal music, in particular several highly expressive settings of the Crucifixus. His sonata is no less expressive, thanks to the frequent application of chromaticism and dissonances. The opening adagio is particularly striking. Also noteworthy is a passage with staccato chords, followed by short pauses, in the third movement. In comparison, Baldassare Galuppi is a typical representative of the galant style; the involvement of the transverse flute bears witness to that. This instrument, whose baroque form had also its origin in France, became increasingly popular among amateurs in the course of the 18th century.

The two sonatas by Giovanni Battista Ferrandini and Giuseppe Brescianello are notable for the many melodic twists and turns. That goes in particular for the second movement of Ferrandini's sonata. This is a solo sonata from a set of six, in which the oboe, the flute and the violin are mentioned as alternatives. This is in line with what I mentioned above: that the oboe was mainly played by professionals. Amateurs may have performed these sonatas on either the flute or the violin.

The last piece is the Sonata in g minor by Giovanni Benedetto Platti, with the rather uncommon scoring for oboe, cello and basso continuo. This can be explained from Platti's biography. He was an oboist by profession, and for most of his life he worked in Germany, where he was in close contact with Rudolf Franz Erwein von Schönborn, an avid player of the cello. This explains why he often gave substantial parts to this instrument in his oeuvre. It makes for an interesting combination of very different sound worlds. But Platti would not be Platti, if he would not make the best out of it.

Affinità has recorded quite an interesting programme. Music for wind instruments by Italian composers of the baroque era is not that often performed and recorded, and especially the pieces by Ferrandini and Brescianello are little-known. Overall, Affinità delivers fine performances. The expressive features of Lotti's sonata come off to the full, as well as the many surprises in Ferrandini's sonata. Now and then I found the playing a bit too straightforward, such as Vivaldi's sonata, which I have heard in more marked interpretations, and that goes especially for the recorder part. It is also rather odd that the basso continuo part is omitted here. However, this is a well-known piece and not the most important part of the programme. Lovers of woodwind will certainly enjoy this disc and be encouraged to look for further discs with this kind of repertoire.

Johan van Veen

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