Naples in the first half of the 18th century ranked among the musical capitals of Europe. In the three major genres of operatic, sacred and instrumental music the city both attracted many of the continent’s best musicians to live and work there for a period, as well as nurturing a prodigious native tradition of performers and composers.
Among the most distinguished of that latter company is to be counted Francesco Durante (1684-1755), praised by no less than Jean-Jacques Rousseau as ‘the greatest harmonist in Italy, which is to say in the world.’ Extravagant words, on the face of it, but backed up by many passages and twists of genius in the collection of eight concertos for string ensemble which features in this new recordingRead more from a sparkly Italian period-instrument ensemble.
Each concerto has its own proportions; only the Fifth follows what we now think of as a three-movement, fast-slow-fast model. For the rest, fugues and double canons alternate with minuets and abrupt presto sections that translate some of the drama of opera into purely instrumental terms. The expression is always at full tilt; Neapolitan, one might say, and indeed it is Durante who passed down to posterity many of the characteristics that are now readily associated with an entire school and locale of composition. A world premiere recording distinguishes this set from its competitors: a concerto in B flat which did not belong to the single surviving hand-written score, but is indubitably by Durante, as its harmonic daring and vivid character will confirm.
Ensemble Imaginaire gave the first performance of this concerto in modern times during the lead-up to this recording, which will be welcomed by all Baroque music enthusiasts. Read less
Performed with a light touchJune 11, 2019By Ralph Graves (Hood, VA)See All My Reviews"This double-disc release features eight string concertos by Francesco Durante, plus one that's never been recorded before. Durante was a major figure in the early 18th Century. His music helped define the Neopolitan Galante Style. It was clean, clear, and relatively free of ornamentation. For the most part, the concertos on this release follow the same pattern. The major key concertos have transparent textures, with light, tuneful melodies. The minor concertos usually start with long, slow introductions. These introductions gradually build polyphonically before blossoming into fugues. The textures are thicker, giving them greater gravitas than the major key concertos. Although there are large-scale patterns, each concerto has its own character. "La Pazzia" (Concerto No. 8 in A major) alternates tempos within the first movement. It gives the music a seeming spontaneity I didn't hear in the other concertos. The unnumbered Concerto in B-flat major seems a summation of Durante's skill. The ensemble writing is quite complex. Melodies and rhythms take unexpected turns (compared to the numbered concertos). The Ensemble Imaginaire number seven players. Their collective sound is full and lightweight. That lightness is just what Durante's Galante works need."Report Abuse
Neapolitan orchestral music, both erudite and galOctober 12, 2017By Dean Frey See All My Reviews"The Neapolitan composer Francesco Durante, who was born within a year of Bach and Handel, is known mainly as a teacher (of, among others, Paisiello and Pergolesi) and a writer of sacred music. These concertos for strings often have an ecclesiastical sound, more in a contrapuntal style than a concertante one. This erudite feeling is further enhanced by Durante's use of minor keys and a tendency towards galant sentiment, and even sentimentality. There are passages which remind me of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, with a vague feeling of spiritual contemplation. The Ensemble Imaginaire under Cristina Corrieri provide an accomplished but rather low temperature reading of this music, less intense than the 2009 album (on 2 CDs with some additional works) by Concerto Koln under Werner Eberhardt. There has been some recent movement in Durante scholarship, and the essay by Corrieri in the liner notes says "the present CD set is effectively the first complete recording of Francesco Durantes Concertos for strings", due to the presence of a newly discovered Concerto in B flat major. Durante is a serious and estimable composer, but don't expect much toe-tapping when you listen to this."Report Abuse