Paganini Rolla CCS44022
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Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840)
Divertimenti Carnevaleschi, MS 4: II. Alessandrina No 1 (pub. 1805)
Duetti concertante for Violin and Bassoon, MS 130 No 1 (1800)
Divertimenti Carnevaleschi, MS 4: X. Valzer No 1 - XI Valzer No 2 (pub. 1805)
Duetti concertante for Violin and Bassoon, MS 130 No 3 (1800)
Divertimenti Carnevaleschi, MS 4: I. Minuetto (pub. 1805)
Duetti concertante for Violin and Bassoon, MS 130 No 2 (1800)
Divertimenti Carnevaleschi, MS 4: XV. Sei contradanze inglesi (pub.1805)
Alessandro ROLLA (1757-1811)
Concertino a tre in E-flat major for Viola, Cello and Bassoon, BI 388 (1780)
Andrea Bressan (bassoon)
Giovanni Guzzo, Gabrielle Shek (violin), Dana Zemtsov (viola), Pau Codina (cello)
rec. 2021, Villa San Fermo, Lonigo, Italy

This is one of these fun albums of obscure repertoire that turns up from time to time. You will be glad to have heard it, may be delighted to own it, and its divertingly pure and honest entertainment make it something that can raise your spirits - and there is nothing wrong with that at all. It is however a set of quite light and frothy confections, and almost certainly not the kind of music that will transform your life or open new vistas of poetic expression.

Part of the joy of this programme is the infectious nature of the playing. Distinguished players Andrea Bressan and Giovanni Guzzo are great friends, as were composers Niccolò Paganini and Alessandro Rolla, who performed together as a violin and viola duo, the former apparently having had left-hand pizzicato technique introduced to him by the latter.

Paganini's Three Concertante Duets for Violin and Bassoon were relatively recently uncovered amongst the papers of Paganini's pupil Camillo Sivori. These are mixed in with selected movements from the Carnival Divertimenti, “a festive medley intended for the carnival at Genoa.” With string quartet and bassoon and a more formal dance feel these pair and contrast nicely with the duets, which have a more fun, virtuoso and witty atmosphere.

Alessandro Rolla was a violinist in the La Scala theatre orchestra and was highly in demand as a teacher and as a conductor. Rolla's Concertino a tre is also light in feel, but its more ambitious duration in the outer of three movements provides an opportunity for some more searching and lyrical music making. The character of each instrument allows us to imagine an operatic ensemble with a buffo but avuncularly empathetic bassoon, his sympathetic but at times outspoken wife the cello, and a daughter violin who is very much part of the family, but also seems keen to spread her wings. You can of course ignore this flight of fancy, but there is plenty of musical conversation going on in each movement; each player being given some lovely expressive moments but with the ensemble always retaining its integrity.

The Alessandro Rolla Concertino is claimed as a world première recording, and when it comes to the Paganini pieces these are the kind of works that have only turned up on complete editions such as the Dynamic label’s 10 CD set (review). With the up-beat and sunny nature of the music and music-making on this recording it only remains to give it a firm recommendation as some light relief at, for instance, the end of a stressful day, or after a surfeit of Weltschmerz.

Dominy Clements

Published: November 16, 2022