Notes and Editorial Reviews
Première récréation de musique,
Double Violin Sonatas: in e,
Deuxième récréation de musique,
Musica Alta Ripa
MDG 309 1762 (75:44)
Musica Alta Ripa has framed two of Jean-Marie Leclair’s sonatas for two
violins with two large-scale works, op. 6 and op. 8. In these, violinists Anne Röhrig and Ulla Bundies expand the trio-sonata texture of two violins and continuo (cellist Albert Brüggen, Dennis Götte playing baroque guitar and theorbo, and harpsichordist Bernward Lohr) by adding recorder (Danya Segal) and oboe (Hans-Peter Westermann). In the first of these dance-suite-like compilations, an Ouverture introduces a series of dances culminating in a Chaconne. In these, the ensemble keeps the spirits buoyant, the timbres bright (the wind instruments contribute to a kaleidoscopic variety despite the small number of added instruments), and the articulation crisp. The instrumentalists make ever-so-slight rhythmic inflections to clarify the movement’s structure. All this contributes to a heady mix of textures and rhythms, to say nothing of infectious melodies. Many may conclude that the ensemble’s attempt to colorize the work yields greater dividends here than might a reimagining of a movie like
Leclair’s sonatas for two violins (without continuo) resemble Antonio Vivaldi’s violin concertos in extracting from slender instrumentation a world of textures and timbres. The two sonatas presented by Röhrig and Bundies comprise within their short durations all the sparkle and gem-like brilliance that for many listeners epitomize the composer’s persona—not only the hustle bustle embodied in the E-Minor Sonata’s fast movements (the first more higgledy-piggledy than the last) but also the rich combinations the composer and, in this case, the violinists draw from the simple textures of the slower middle one. The E-Major Sonata lasts almost twice as long (and falls into four, rather than three, movements). Röhrig and Bundies sound, if anything, even more bracing in this work than they do in the previous one. In fact, it’s hard to imagine why these sonatas haven’t become a popular entertainment among violinists (they’re as enjoyable to perform as to listen to). Often the two voices move in imitation, but in the slow movement of this sonata, one accompanies the other with rapid arpeggiated passages (remember the rich effect of the two violins—orchestral accompaniment aside—in the finale of Vivaldi’s Concerto in A Minor, op. 3/8). The exuberant ornaments that open the Minuetto also seem atypical of what I’ve heard and played of these sonatas.
After the ending of the almost feather-light second double-violin sonata, the opening Ouverture of the second
seems exceptionally weighty in Musica Alta Ripa’s expanded instrumental garb—with the added avoirdupois balanced by brief wind solos that bubble up out of the prevailing textures. In this first movement, bold gestures and sudden contrasts also contribute to the strong impression the music and ensemble collaborate to produce. As in the first piece on the program, a series of dances follows; but in this case, the vigorous Chaconne, although again the longest movement in the suite, doesn’t come at the end—its place taken there by a noisy, rambunctious “Tambourin.” Musica Alta Ripa and the engineers, who have provided crystal-clear recorded sound, deserve a commendation for their program, which represents one of the fastest hours I’ve heard in two decades of reviewing. Strongly recommended.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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