Notes and Editorial Reviews
If Arcangelo Corelli can be called the Father of Violin Playing, Giuseppe Tartini in the next generations gathered together a group of students into what even his own contemporaries designated as a “School of the Nations.” Now, violinist Crtomir Siskovic and harpsichordist Luca Ferrini have assembled a program of sonatas by five of those students. The first, the three-movement (slow-fast-fast) Sonata in D Major by Michele Stratico, bears similarities in turns of melody and rhythmic figures—to say nothing of harmonic patterns—to those of his teacher (principally, perhaps, in the opening movement). Siskovic plays with a natural eloquence and a rhythmic
Arthur Grumiaux’s in Baroque literature, but his closeness to the mikes discloses many heavy breaths—one before and again just as he begins the first note, seem particularly gratuitous. (My wife has suggested that heavy breathing on recordings provides a musical analog of facial stubble—fashionable, perhaps, or at least currently on its way to becoming so, but not altogether pleasant to all sensibilities. To me it’s like an actor breaking wind while delivering a soliloquy or, more palatably, a ventriloquist moving his lips—something that can be avoided.) I’ve listened for years to celebrated violinists very up-close without ever having heard anything like this—you’d have to have inserted a microphone into their nasal passages to capture sounds so distracting.
Margherita Canale Degrassi’s booklet notes evaluate Stratico’s Sonata as being a product of “an accomplished amateur composer,” demonstrating how very accomplished amateurs might have been at the time when instructed as thoroughly as Tartini obviously taught them. Domenico dall’Oglio’s three-movement (fast-slow-fast) Eighth Sonata, in C Minor, sounds a great deal more violinistic in its outer movements, and highly affecting in its slow one. Perhaps that’s due in large part to Siskovic’s ingratiating manner (of drawing the bow, not of drawing breaths) and the aristocratic purity of his tone and expression.
Antonio Nazari’s three-movement (fast-slow-variations) Sonata in C Major, like Stratico’s, makes Tartini-like gestures, many of them, in the first movement, in double-stops. At about 14 and a quarter minutes, it’s the longest of the program’s sonatas; and although its first movement composes nearly half of that, its glory will appear to many to lie in its expressive slow movement, with its variations somewhat workaday, although they enshrine advanced violinistic techniques—seemingly far in advance of Tartini’s. Ignacio Gobbi’s three-movement (fast-minuet-fast) Sonata in D Major speaks a musical language far in advance of the others. Degrassi suggests a later date of composition and even hints at a nodding glance at Haydn in its second movement (others might hear stylistic similarities to Boccherini).
The story goes that Pietro Nardini nursed his master during his final illness, hinting at an especially close relationship between the two violinists. Paul Stoeving, whose writings about the violin I’ve always found illuminating, described another, more famous Sonata in D Major as akin to an angel peering out innocently and with wide-eyed wonder from the folds of a surplice—an image that’s almost as entertaining as another of the composer’s three-movement (slow-fast-minuet) sonatas in D Major, which the duo presents in the program. This work might have been written in collaboration with Tartini but still demonstrates a certain amount of individuality, especially in its brilliant and showy second movement—no angel or surplice here, either in the music or in Siskovic’s and Ferrini’s dynamic reading.
Siskovic and Ferrini include inventive ornamentation here and there, adding, as so many ornaments do, fuel to the music’s forward momentum. The program itself should appeal to many kinds of listeners besides violinists, for whom it should be obligatory—those who wish to explore the period’s byways as well as its highways, in particular, but also those who admire Tartini and his ingratiating musical style. Strongly recommended across the board, except where heavy breathing has been placed under interdict.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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