(The) Rise of the North Italian Violin Concerto Vol 3
La Serenissima’s examination of influential formative years of the violin concerto here reaches its end with works from what the group’s violin soloist and director Adrian Chandler calls “The Golden Age” – roughly speaking the years from 1710 to 1750. What truly gilds this period, of course, is the presence of Vivaldi, without whose popularity today we may well not be looking at this repertoire any more than we do, say, Italian operas or keyboard sonatas of the same time. There are two concertos by him, both proudly characterful works for violin, pairs of oboes and horns, bassoon and strings (with rumbustious timpani in RV562a), and both possessed of enough Vivaldian spark to justify his pre-eminence. Next to these the two works by Locatelli – one a rather serious, harmonically snaking concerto grosso, the other a strangely momentumless concerto for four violins – do less to grab the listener, while Sammartini’s Concerto a più stromenti, presumably included to demonstrate the violin concerto’s entry into the classical era, seems little more than a collection of empty gestures. More appealing is the solo concerto by Tartini, strongly made and virtuoso, yet demonstrating throughout a gentler brand of lyricism than Vivaldi’s.
Chandler lets this music speak for itself in performances which are full of the uncomplicated and natural ebullience we have learnt to expect from his youthful group. Their ensemble is not as tyrannically reined-in as that of some other Baroque orchestras, and neither is their sound, which has an openness and brightness presumably attributable to their use of “Venetian” 440 pitch.
Perhaps one cannot say that these three volumes of unusual material have unearthed many forgotten masterpieces but this has been a fascinating and worthwhile project nevertheless.