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Giuseppe TARTINI (1692 - 1770)
Sonata for viola da gamba and bc in G minor [10:51]
Sonata for viola da gamba and bc in B-flat [08:35]
Sonata a 4 for strings and bc in D (GT 5.D01) [09:50]
Concerto for cello, strings and bc in A (GT 1.A28) [13:38]
Concerto for cello, strings and bc in D (GT 1.D34) [22:15]
Antonio VANDINI (c1690-1778)
Concerto for cello, strings and bc in D [09:55]
Giulio MENEGHINI (1741-1824)
Concertone III for strings and bc in C [08:46]
(bc=basso continuo)
Mario Brunello (four-string violoncello piccolo)
Accademia dell'Annunciata/Riccardo Doni
rec. 2019, Chiesa di San Bernardino, Abbiategrasso (Milan), Italy
ARCANA A478 [84:02]

The commemoration of the death of Giuseppe Tartini in 2020 has resulted in a little, but significant stream of new recordings of his oeuvre. That is most welcome, as his music was not that often recorded before, although he is a key figure in the stylististic development of music in the 18th century, and in particular in the playing of and composing for his own instrument, the violin. He is almost exclusively associated with that instrument, which is understandable, given that the large majority of his compositions is intended for it. However, he also composed music in other scorings, and that is what the present disc is about. We get here two cello concertos and two viola da gamba sonatas as well as pieces by two composers who were in one way or another associated with him.

The main feature of this disc is the instrument Mario Brunello plays: a violoncello piccolo with four strings. Most music lovers probably know this instrument because Johann Sebastian Bach prescribed it in some of his cantatas. Apparently this was also the instrument, for which Tartini composed his two cello concertos. There is some confusion with regard to the instrument for which the solo parts are intended. The frontispiece of the Concerto in D mentions the viola as the solo instrument, and this has been used as an argument to state that the solo part was intended for the viola da gamba. However, Margherita Canale, in her liner-notes, writes that the terms viola and violoto were used for the violoncello piccolo. That was one of the instruments played by Antonio Vandini, for whom Tartini may have written his concertos, and who was very close to Tartini.

The programme opens with Vandini's only cello concerto. In addition he composed six sonatas for cello and basso continuo. From September 1720 to April 1721 he was maestro di violoncello at the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, where his colleague was Antonio Vivaldi. The latter may have written some of his cello concertos for him. In November 1721 Vandini entered the cathedral orchestra in Padua. It is a token of his reputation that he was appointed without being examined. In April of that year Giuseppe Tartini had been appointed primo violino e capo di concert. The two men became close friends and worked together for the rest of their lives. Together they travelled to Prague in 1722, where they participated in the musical celebrations of the coronation of the Habsburg emperor Charles VI as King of Bohemia in 1723. They remained here until 1726. After their return to Padua they often performed together. When Tartini's wife died, Vandini moved in and took care of him. Vandini retired from service at Padua Cathedral in 1770, and returned to Bologna, where he died in 1778. Vandini's Concerto in D consists of three movements. The central movement is an andantino, which is here introduced by a short improvisation of Elisa De Marca on the guitar, which has some unmistakable folkloristic elements. This seems to be inspired by what, according to Mario Brunello, is a key element in Tartini's aesthetic.

It is generally known that Tartini was a strong advocate of naturalness in music. He himself put it this way: "I am at home as much as I can be with Nature, and as little as possible with Art, having no other Art than the imitation of Nature". Brunello points out that Tartini was inspired by folk music. In his own notes in the booklet, he writes: "'Nature' here is to be understood as 'a felicitous simplicity of thought' as applied to music in a highly cultured tradition, dance music and popular songs transmitted through oral tradition and which had probably left an impression on young Tartini during his training in Istria. Tartini's compositional system is based on the equal consideration and dialogue between truth to Nature and artifice, themes that Tartini was to develop throughout his entire life, above all in old age when he sought to give them theoretical form in various treatises." In particular the slow movements show these influences. In many ways these bring us to the heart of Tartini's aesthetical world. Brunello pays tribute to that in his interpretations, including the addition of ornamentation and cadenzas. It is notable that the Concerto in A has three movements, whereas the Concerto in D has four in the order slow-fast-slow-fast. In the former, the ensemble comprises strings and basso continuo; in the latter they are joined by two horns.

The programme includes two sonatas for viola da gamba. In this case, there can be no doubt that they were indeed intended for this instrument, even though Brunello decided to perform them on the violoncello piccolo. They have recently been discovered in a collection of musical manuscripts from the castle of Ledenburg in the former princely bishopric of Osnabrück in Germany. Part of his collection were also the twelve fantasias for viola da gamba solo by Telemann which for a long time were thought to be lost. It also includes pieces by the gambist Carl Friedrich Abel. These facts leave no doubt that these sonatas are indeed intended for the viola da gamba. One of them is an original work by Tartini, according to Margherita Canale, whereas the other is a transcription of a violin sonata. Both are in three movements, in the order which was common in central Germany in the mid-18th century: slow-fast-fast.

Tartini has written little for string ensemble without a solo part. New Grove mentions four authentic sonatas for strings; only one has been preserved in autograph, and that is the Sinfonia a 4 in D included here. It is a testimony of Tartini's command of counterpoint, but Canale also mentions that it points into the future, with reference to the string quartets by Haydn. The programme ends with another piece for string ensemble. Giulio Meneghini was one of Tartini's pupils and transcribed the first six of the sonatas for violin and basso continuo Op 1 (1734) of his teacher, with his permission. The Concertone III in C is a nice and worthy conclusion of a most interesting and captivating disc, which shows a different side of the man who is virtually only known as composer for the violin.

Tartini's music performed here is not in any way inferior to what we know from him, and Mario Brunello is the perfect advocate. His playing is energetic and full of fantasy, as he shows in particular in his ornamentation and cadenzas. The lyricism which is such an important feature of Tartini's music, is not lost on him either. I could do without the two improvisations (in Vandini and in Tartini's Concerto in D), but they are part of Brunello's interpretational concept. He has found congenial partners in the members of the Accademia dell'Annunciata. The addition of Vandini's cello concerto and Meneghini's arrangement are nice bonuses, which help to put Tartini in his historical context.

Johan van Veen

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