Notes and Editorial Reviews
THE DEVIL’S TRILL
PASSACAILLE 996 (60:36)
The Devil’s Trill.
Violin Sonatas: in e,
Violin Sonata in A,
No. 4 in G
Enrico Onofri’s recording of “virtuoso” Baroque violin sonatas explores the meaning of the adjective “virtuoso,” expanding it beyond the traditional sense exemplified by Nicolò Paganini and his followers (and earlier, of course, by Pietro Locatelli, Antonio Lolli, and their counterparts) to embrace striking expressive effects like the
messa di voce
that figures in Onofri’s performances. His program opens with Giuseppe Tartini’s well-known
—well known, perhaps, but mostly from Jean-Baptiste Cartier’s late 18th-century anthology
L’Art du violon
and its progeny (Joseph Szigeti’s brief history of editions begins here). Onofri, on the other hand, has gone back to what he considers an even earlier source, an imperfect manuscript now in the library of the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua. Onofri assumes that much has been done to alter the version that Cartier printed; he uses it only to correct the manuscript he used in preparing his reading. Imaginarium’s, cellist, Alessandro Palmeri, plays Tartini’s skeletal bass line unadorned—Andrew Manze, in his recording of the work in
Tartini: The Devil’s Sonata
, (Harmonia Mundi 907213,
21:5), dispensed with the continuo altogether—but harpsichordist Riccardo Doni remains almost hyperactive throughout the first movement. Onofri himself adds expressive ornaments to enhance the solo line. The booklet gives the title of the second movement simply as
rather than as
, Cartier’s designation (Fritz Kreisler retitled it
). Onofri takes the movement at a fast clip, adding ornamental runs and crescendos stretching over a number of measures to keep Tartini’s metric engine purring. And he surrounds the Devil’s Trill itself in the last movement, but forgoes the opportunity provided in Cartier’s version (which Kreisler exploited to the highest degree of effectiveness) to provide a cadenza near the end. Throughout, Onofri includes the by-now obligatory nasal snorts at the beginnings of movements; the engineers have captured their full, rich resonance.
Francesco Maria Veracini’s Sonata in E Minor from his
has become perhaps his most enduring single work. Onofri and the ensemble bring technical savvy as well as a combination of witty interplay and dynamic subtlety to the first movement. He balances piquant staccatos with flowing cantabile in the second, concluding with his own bracing cadenza at the end, and energizes with strong dynamic contrasts the
that brings the Sonata to a close.
The notes, presumably by Onofri, describe the Sonata by Roman violinist Giovanni Mossi as a compendium of violinistic elements, and these come immediately—and overwhelmingly—to the fore in the work’s second movement. In such moments, Onofri displays the brilliance that listeners who remember his striking version of Antonio Vivaldi’s
expect from him, but without punk cockiness; he and the ensemble endow the last movement with all the gravitas its fugal material suggests.
The Fifth Sonata from Veracini’s op. 2 opens with several examples of the
messa di voce
, the force of which may be lost on listeners unaware of its importance as an expressive device in the period during which Veracini wrote the Sonata—and of the difficulty of producing it. (Onofri cites Tartini’s advice to his student Maddalena Lombardini-Sirmen to practice the effect for an hour daily.) In the second movement, the ensemble sets the skittish violin accompaniment effectively against the melody presented in the continuo. Their exuberance lasts through all four movements into the
Fabio Biondi gave an account of these two sonatas in his collection of four of the works from the composer’s op. 2 and a Capriccio in G Minor (Opus 111 OPS 30,
19:1); Onofri’s tonal suavity and technical alertness resemble Biondi’s. Elizabeth Wallfisch’s complete set of the sonatas with the Locatelli Trio (Hyperion CDA 66871/3, which I mentioned as “magnificent” in the same issue of
) will appeal most strongly to those who prefer a less compromising approach to tone and technique in Baroque music, believing it to be more historically informed, though her vivacity and sense of fancy should endear her playing of these works to any listener.
Francesco Antonio Bonporti’s
No. 4 pours the same
joie de vivre
into a work combining dances (a
) with an Aria after an opening
. Onofri justifies the inclusion of this piece by reference to its expressive Aria and thereby further develops his theory that Baroque virtuosity encompassed more than mere finger-wiggling.
The engineers have provided a close-up portrait of the performers and their instruments (Onofri plays on an anonymous early 18th-century Italian violin) and their sonorous respiratory individualities. But the clarity of the picture yields precedence to the performances themselves, as well as to the vibrant quality of the repertory. Strongly recommended.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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