FARINA Sonate e Canzoni
I confess my eyes lit up at the sight of this release from Leila Schayegh, the Swiss violinist whose version of the Bach violin-and-harpsichord sonatas last year (Glossa, 3/15) shot straight into the play-off places among my favourite recordings of those wondrous works. How can one not look forward to hearing her bright warm tone, smooth technique and excellent good taste in the violin repertoire of early-17th-century Italy, with its appealing mix of lyrical sweetness and restless virtuosity?
Carlo Farina was among the first composers to write specifically for the violin, playing a major part as he did so in developing such techniques as double-stopping, tremolo and col legno. His most famous piece, the four-part Capriccio stravagante, makes use of these for programmatic purposes, but although they do not feature so strongly in the music presented here – the complete works for solo violin and continuo drawn from Farina’s total of 128 assorted instrumental pieces – there is no doubt that the sonatas, at least, are real violin music. And if it’s no use pretending that in their sometimes rambling progress they are as formally satisfying as the sonatas produced around that time by contemporaries such as Marini, Fontana, Buonamente and Salomone Rossi, they exude the same alluring ambience.
In any case, the disc addresses the threat of monotony by interspersing Farina’s pieces with solos for harpsichord, lute and gamba by composers known, little-known and unknown (sometimes using them to good effect as preludes to a Farina piece), as well as two rare early works for unaccompanied violin. I am pleased to say that I was not disappointed by Schayegh’s performances of these largely neglected pieces, or with that of her excellent fellow musicians. Technically flawless, effortlessly stylish and with one of the most seductive sounds of any Baroque violinist today, Schayegh is one to watch out for whatever the repertoire.