Notes and Editorial Reviews
Propitia Sydera: Concerti Grossi Nos. 8,
, “Victoria Mesta”;
Solo Violin Sonata
Stefano Rossi (vn); Irene De Ruvo (hpd); dir; La Concordanza (period instruments)
STRADIVARIUS 33897 (55:44)
his study of the Baroque concerto, A. J. B. Hutchings noted that Georg Muffat had composed concertos on Arcangelo Corelli’s model even before Corelli had published his own (which finally appeared only as his last opus in the second decade of the 18th century, while these concertos come from the years between 1682 and 1689) and that his works rise higher than those of Giuseppe Torelli or Francesco Geminiani—or even than second-string Vivaldi. Be that as it may, early musicographer Robert Eitner gave Muffat’s nationality not as Italian like those he admired and codified, but as Scottish. Stefano Rossi and La Concordanza have selected four of his 12 concertos and he also plays the Solo Violin Sonata in D Major (of course at the widely adopted and now almost
tuning of A = 415). Muffat also served the concerto form by making suggestions in his preface about its performance and giving specific instructions in the preface to his sonatas about their realization.
Rossi’s program opens with the Eighth Concerto, a five-movement work resembling one of Corelli’s
concerti da camera
in its inclusion of dance movements (as well, however, as a Sonata, and Grave). La Concordanza’s performance includes two oboes and a bassoon (as do those of the 11th and 12th concertos), and their addition adds thumping weight to the textures that make them seem far removed from the older model. But the violins still weave a flexible ribbon of sound in Corelli’s manner above the bass in the slow movement. In the Ninth Concerto, without the addition of winds in this reading, the music still sounds as though Muffat had traded some of Corelli’s elegant seriousness for a cheerful smile. This concerto again falls into five movements, with a mix of Italian titles and dance movements. In the Aria in particular, La Concordanza has pointed up Muffat’s sensitivity to the spacing of voices, creating a sense of exceptional depth (the ensemble includes not only a cello but a violone, giving its sonorities a firm foundation). The ambiance of the Villa Sacro Curoe, in which the ensemble recorded the program in December 2010 and February 2011, must also have played a part in enhancing Muffat’s textures. The winds return for the 11th Concerto, again in five mixed (dance and abstract) movements. The violins chase each other in the central Grave with a very un-Corellian playfulness; La Concordanza makes the game seem well worth the candle.
The four-movement (slow-fast-slow-fast) Violin Sonata, also based on Corelli’s models (William S. Newman suggests that Muffat wrote his sonatas after hearing Corelli’s concerti grossi in Rome), it nevertheless appears from its first movement to take a more daring approach to melody and harmony than Corelli did, though the technique and passagework required of the violinist remain similar. Playing his 1740 Henry James violin, Rossi makes the work seem a bit more reflective than did the slightly harder-edged Rachel Barton Pine in her collection of German sonatas (Cedille 112,
33:1), although he makes a great deal of the rapid passages in the gigue-like finale (which actually ends with a repeat of the sonata’s opening in an early glance at cyclical form). The concert concludes with a performance of the 12th Concerto—almost double the length of the others due to the inclusion of an elegant Ciacona that itself lasts 9:41 in this reading and traverses a wide range of
—with the winds again included.
Peter Zajícek recorded the entire dozen concerti grossi with Musica Aeterna Bratislava (Naxos 8.555096 and 8.555743), and that ensemble, with bassoon providing an underpinning for its rather tart string timbres, should provide an adequate alternative for those wishing to hear the entire set. But for those who simply wish to make the composer’s acquaintance (perhaps after reading his views on the period’s performance practice), Stradivarius’s sonorous and zestful release should provide an engaging, propitious introduction.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Sonata for solo violin by Georg Muffat
Irene de Ruvo (Harpsichord),
Stefano Rossi (Violin)
Irene de Ruvo
Venue: Triuggio (MB), Villa Sacro Cuore
Length: 12 Minutes 10 Secs.
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