Notes and Editorial Reviews
Violin Sonatas: No. 8 in B?; No. 3 in E; No. 10 in a; No. 2 in A; No. 4 in G.
The True Method of Playing an Adagio Made Easy by 12 Examples:
s: No. 10 in d; No. 7 in e; No. 11 in c
Plamena Nikitassova (vn); Maya Amrein (vc); Jörg-Andreas Bötticher (hpd) (period instruments)
PAN 10268 (64:30)
Violinist Plamena Nikitassova, cellist Maya Amrein, and harpsichordist Jörg-Andreas
Bötticher have introduced the long-lived violinist-composer Carlo Zuccari (1704-1792) in a program consisting of five of the sonatas from his op. 1 (“virtuosic,” according to William S. Newman), interspersing among them three
s from his instruction book,
The True Method of Playing an Adagio Made Easy by 12 Examples
. According to the notes, he published the sonatas in Milan in 1747 and the instruction book (in which an ornamented part appears as a second line above the main, unornamented one) in London in 1760. The program opens with the 10th of the
s, which Nikitassova plays with a tone that might be described as pungent (drawn from a violin made by Sebastian Klotz in Mittenwald in the first part of the 18th century) and a facility that might be described as liquidly fluent. For some listeners, the first may detract from the effect as much as the second enhances it. The Eighth Sonata, like all the others in the program, comprises three movements, the first of which, in this instance, sparkles (at least in Nikitassova’s performance) with ornamentation and explores just enough side roads to sound harmonically adventurous. The piquant
that follows hardly sounds like a contrasting movement; violinist and ensemble keep the helium-filled balloon from touching the ground throughout its duration, while they imbue the
that brings the sonata to a conclusion with congenial high spirits. The
begins with a noticeable gulp of breath, and the heavy breathing that follows occasionally intrudes into the texture. I’ve sat in ensembles of various sizes and never heard my fellow instrumentalists snorting for breath, so I wonder where an audience member would have to sit to hear such regular nasal accompaniments as the microphones picked up in this instance.
In the Seventh
, Nikitassova allows the melody to flow naturally over the accompaniment; the opening movement of the Third Sonata creates a very different kind of impression, with the violinist taking advantage of the opportunities Zuccari provided for rhetorical pauses. The second movement hardly represents in this performance an acceleration of the pace, despite its marking of
: it waits for the sprightly
that brings the movement to a conclusion with the kind of fleet passagework that might have earned the sonatas a reputation for difficulty. The 10th Sonata brings together three movements with a Cantabile at their center that fits well into the mellifluous ethos of the
s that complement the program. In the Second Sonata, the pattern changes to slow-fast-fast, a common one from the period, in this case with a contrapuntal
seeming to mimic the fugal second movements of earlier sonatas on the model of Arcangelo Corelli and a sprightly gigue-like finale that also conforms to the earlier model but adds some breathtaking ornamentation that the ensemble plays with heady verve. The 11th
, with its improvisation at the final cadence, leads to the set’s final sonata, the Fourth. In this case, a suave opening
gives way to an
and to a minuet finale (another of the period’s common patterns) that makes more demands, in its minuet proper as well as in its trio-like central section, on the violinist’s technique (including thickets of double-stops) than such a title might suggest.
If Zuccari traced his violinistic (and compositional?) lineage to Corelli, his sonatas and
s go far beyond them in their melodic and harmonic design and their violinistic demands, though they don’t sound so strikingly virtuosic as the works of Antonio Vivaldi or Giuseppe Tartini. Nikitassova and the ensemble make them available in generally ingratiating performances that those disposed to the music of the period should welcome. Others may find the music itself insufficiently ingratiating, despite its undeniable energy, to make the game worth the candle. Still, even these should find almost enough of interest in the Second Sonata to make the trip worthwhile. Recommended, then, across the board.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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