TARTINI Sonatas for Solo Violin
Recordings of Tartini’s violin sonatas are relatively rare. Two excellent recordings by period players come to mind: those of Elizabeth Wallfisch with the Locatelli Trio in 1992 (Hyperion, 4/92, 11/92) and Andrew Manze in 1998 (Harmonia Mundi, 5/98), the latter notable for being performed solo. Both include the best known of Tartini’s sonatas, Il trillo del Diavolo.
This two-disc release is much the most ambitious yet. Črtomir Šiškovič may not be a period player but he is from Trieste, not far from the composer’s birthplace, and has nurtured a deep familiarity with Tartini’s music. He is always on top of the considerable technical demands of this frequently chordal and highly ornamented music, and plays exquisitely in tune.
Here, then, are 15 of 31 sonatas from a manuscript collection in the archive of the Veneranda Arca del Santo at Padua. Like Manze, Šiškovič performs them as solos, taking his cue from a letter Tartini wrote in 1750 that apparently accompanied these ‘small violin sonatas’, in which he remarked that ‘I play them without bass, which is the way I really intended them’.
Cast in three and four movements, mostly as sonate da chiesa (though some include a single dance, such as the D minor Siciliana, disc 1, tr 4), nearly all the sonatas contain Tartini’s trademark Andante cantabile or Allegro cantabile and sometimes both, or, if not, then an Affettuoso. The seventh of this group ends with an extended, melodic Tema con variazioni that in a single track demonstrates the full range of Tartini’s distinctive style and virtuosity (disc 2, tr 16).
While conveying Tartini’s concept of instrumental cantabile is paramount, there is ample evidence in the music of his exquisite sense of timing and improvisation, and even a sense of humour (for example, disc 1, tr 26 and disc 2, tr 21). Šiškovič provides an admirable reading of these virtually unknown sonatas but could have allowed himself still greater freedom to breathe between phrases and rhetorical gestures, and to vary the dynamics. All in all, a wonderful enhancement of our appreciation of the mid-18th-century Italian violin sonata.