Albinoni; Pisendel; Vivaldi Violin Sonatas
It is with some surprise that I find very little of Johann Georg Pisendel’s music in the current catalogue. This was a man respected as the leading German violinist of the first half of the 18th century, a cherished pupil of Vivaldi and a friend of Albinoni, who took their music back home to Dresden with him and may even have been the man for whom Bach’s solo violin music was intended. Yet all we have at present is two violin concertos and a trio sonata.
This new CD, it is true, only adds his two surviving violin sonatas to that list, but at least it moves Pisendel (1687-1755) to centre stage by placing them alongside others composed expressly for him (most of which are also new to the catalogue, as it happens). Just what Vivaldi and Albinoni thought of his abilities is evident enough from the high energy and technical difficulty of their sonatas (Albinoni in particular seems to have rated double-stopping as one of his friend’s main strengths), while Pisendel’s own examples are confident, tough-boned and really rather macho works, slightly more modern in style than that of the Italians and not afraid to indulge in the odd concerto-like excursion into fiery arpeggios and other assorted types of violinistic showing-off.
La Serenissima’s violinist and founder Adrian Chandler is well on top of this music. His playing is boldly projected, fearlessly agile and full of spirit. And if from the dynamics’ point of view there is occasionally a hint of ‘heads down’ in the faster movements, he shows a gentler side in the slower ones, and everywhere an alert and interest-sustaining approach to articulation. The continuo support he receives is every bit as involved: Gareth Deats’s punchy cello is no shrinking violet, and the harpsichord-playing of Robert Howarth has its subtleties – listen to the way the stabbed chords of the first movement of the Vivaldi C minor Sonata soften incrementally, almost before you have noticed. The recording is bright and lively, so adding to the many virtues of this well-planned and revealing release.