Le fil d’Ariane
On paper, this album really shouldn’t work: the concerti grossi of the Italian Baroque composer Pietro Antonio Locatelli interspersed with movements by Alex Nante, an Argentinian composer born in 1992. Even the album cover, chocolate box-like in its golden swirls and streamlined font, urged me to believe that this would be nothing more than an interesting miscellany of musical morsels. I was, as ever, prepared to be wrong and indeed I was: this is an album of joyful synthesis and occasional genius, a thoughtful experiment in threading together the old and the new.
The Locatelli performances by Le Concert Idéal under the direction of Marianne Piketty on the violin are refined. The Gigue from the Concerto Op 1 No 11 is steely in precision, while the Andante of Op 4 No 7 is flirtatious, teasing out long phrases with sweet sighing figures, cut short only by rumbustious unison chords, a mutiny that intensifies into snap pizzicato out for blood. When juxtaposed with the Nante, however, some of the Locatelli movements are noticeably bland. Tempos err towards the safe; ornamentation is occasionally predictable.
The most remarkable moments on the disc are when Locatelli morphs into Nante – or, to be more precise, when Nante mimics Locatelli’s musical language then melts it down to rebuild from its molten remains. Nante’s ‘Paspié’ is gorgeously deceptive: only as chromaticism creeps in, and diatonicism disintegrates into dissonant chaos – and Ariadne’s thread emerges as an embroidered arioso for solo violin – do we realise that this is not Locatelli but the mesmeric writing of the Paris-trained twenty-something. These moments of trickery aren’t just clever, they’re also seductive. We, the listener, begin to desire the next disintegration, the next musical breakdown. So when Nante’s ‘Giga’ almost instantaneously self-destructs and the discipline of canon becomes anarchy, it is as if we have caused it. This is powerful stuff, and Le Concert Idéal bring to it the zeal it so very much deserves.