Notes and Editorial Reviews
Quite what Corelli, and his English protégée John Ravenscroft (?–1705), who is not to be confused with the earlier and more familiar Thomas Ravenscroft, are doing on a disc called “Stravaganze Napoletane” is a little uncertain. Neither is the mysterious Domenico Gallo (c. 1730–?), an excellent disc of whose fine set of trio sonatas once attributed to Pergolesi was reviewed in Fanfare 24:3, established as having had Neapolitan connections. And while nit-picking, it would have been helpful to make clear that Domenico Sarri, as he is referred to in BIS’s program details and Dan Laurin’s notes, is Domenico Sarro (1679–1744), the name by which he is more usually known, and is called by London Baroque’s Charles Medlam in his note on
Neapolitan Baroque music.
Four of the five works indisputably of Neapolitan origin (the exception is Mancini’s E Minor Sonata) come from the same manuscript housed in the conservatory of S. Pietro, a collection dated 1725 of Concerti di flauto, violini, violetta e bassi, including works by Roberto Valentini and Giovanni Battista Mele in addition to the composers represented on the present disc. Flauto clearly implied recorder at this period, a distinction not made by Camerata Köln, who employed a flute in their cpo recording of all seven Alessandro Scarlatti sonatas in the anthology (24:1). There is also some confusion as to whether the works involved should be called sonatas or concertos, a distinction that would have mattered less to the 18th century than it does to our own terminologically-minded age. Certainly the Sarro (which was called a concerto on the Teldec recording made by Il Giardino Armonico some 10 years ago) bears more hallmarks of concerto form than it does of a sonata, particularly in the Allegro (ii), which clearly adopts the typical alternation of ritornello and solo sections, and final Spiritoso, with its strong connections with buffo opera.
One of the striking features of all these Neapolitan works is the manner in which they demonstrate that Scarlatti by no means held a monopoly among Neapolitan composers when it came to the “learned” contrapuntal style. They all include fugato movements that suggest that all these composers trained in the famed conservatoires of the city were very well tutored in counterpoint. This applies in particular to Francesco Mancini (1627–1737), himself maestro at the conservatoire of S. Maria di Loreto from 1720 to 1737, whose fine G-Minor Sonata suggests a particularly serious-minded and accomplished composer. Perhaps not surprisingly, the finest fugal movement is that of Scarlatti, a wide-ranging movement that stands at the heart of his splendid A-Minor Sonata, a work that also includes an expressive Largo dialogue between recorder and violin senza basso, a type of movement favored by Scarlatti in a number of his sonatas. Also worthy of note is the sonata by Francesco Barbella (1692–1733), a work that straddles the Baroque and the advancing galant style, the latter in evidence in its highly ornamented and expressive Amoroso first movement, and final Allegro, with its clear-cut periodic structure.
Of the three works without recorder, the little Corelli fugue is based on a well-worn subject, while Ravenscroft proves to be the perfect Corelli clone, his four-movement sonata imitating his master’s strongly projected themes, busily active bass lines, ornamental flourishes, and suspensions to perfection. It is not difficult to see how the Amsterdam publisher La Cène was able to get away with publishing six of Ravenscroft’s sonatas as the work of the Roman master. Finally, if you think the delightful Gallo Trio Sonata sounds familiar, it probably is, having been borrowed by Stravinsky (who of course believed it to be by Pergolesi) for his ballet Pulcinello. The performances are as accomplished as one would expect from these artists, although I have to confess there are frequently occasions on which I would happily exchange their supreme technical accomplishment and finesse for more vitality and verve, a greater sense of trying to probe more deeply. Particularly in the recorder works, it all sounds rather too comfortable, and the music speaks more tellingly in Il Giardino Armonico’s less finished performances of the Sarro and Scarlatti sonatas. Nevertheless, this is an appealing collection that can be certainly recommended to anyone attracted by the program.
Brian Robins, FANFARE
Works on This Recording
Fugue a quattro in D major by Arcangelo Corelli
Dan Laurin (Recorder)
Written: Rome, Italy
Length: 2 Minutes 33 Secs.
Trio Sonata no 1 in G major by Domenico Gallo
Written: 18th Century; Italy
Length: 5 Minutes 47 Secs.
Be the first to review this title