LOCATELLI Trio Sonatas: in G, op. 5/1; in e, op. 5/2; in E, op. 5/3; in C, op. 5/4; in d, op. 5/5; in G, op. 5/6; in A, op. 8/7; in D, op. 8/8; in f, op. 8/9;Read morein A, op. 8/10 • Igor Ruhadze (vn, cond); Ens Violini Capricciosi (period instruments) • BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94376 (2 CDs: 110:48)
Igor Ruhadze and the Ensemble Violini Capricciosi provide, in the first volume of their recording of the complete works of Pietro Antonio Locatelli, a selection of the composer’s trio sonatas from op. 5 and from op. 8. Locatelli, a student of Arcangelo Corelli—or at least, as Vaughan Schlepp’s notes suggest, of a member of Corelli’s circle—prefigured Nicolò Paganini in the technical demands he made on performers, even anticipating some of Paganini’s technical innovations (not surprising, since Paganini studied Locatelli’s Caprices). The collection begins with the first four of the sonatas of op. 5 (William S. Newman suggests that they’re intended for either violin or flute) and the last four of op. 8 (the first six being solo sonatas).
Violinists Igor Ruhadze and Daria Gorban play instruments made by David Tecchler in Rome in 1706 and by Hendrick Jacobs in Amsterdam in 1693, respectively; but because of the reverberant acoustic in which they’ve recorded their program, and because of the warm recorded sound, or possibly because of their manner of tone production, they hardly exemplify the wizened pole of the spectrum of “period” timbres. They bring a lushness to the music itself as well, as in the second movement of op. 5/1, a Largo that’s really a Siciliana of sorts (the Largo of op. 5/3 provides another example), as liquid as some of the most famous examples by Antonio Vivaldi. (In this sonata, the movements run S-S-F-F, and that pattern holds throughout the next three —op. 5/4-6, as well as op. 8, with op. 8/9 cast instead in the traditional pattern of S-F (fugal)-S-F.) The ensemble sounds energetic and sprightly in such movements as the first sonata’s concluding Vivace—the timbres may be lavish but they don’t create any impression of heaviness. Often the textures, as in the first two movements of op. 5/2, sound homophonic, with the upper two voices running more in parallel than weaving against each other, and the Ensemble is smoothly elegant in these passages. At times, as at the beginning of op. 5/3, the melodic design recalls the stately serenity of Corelli’s models (the very solemnity of the opening of op. 5/4, itself recalls the Master), but later on the music sneaks peeks into the future. The Ensemble combines energy with elegance in the, in some ways more forward-looking, sonata op. 5/5, (though its central movement sounds generally more contrapuntal than the corresponding numbers in the other sonatas) with its very brief introductory Largo and the Pastorale, strongly reminiscent of Corelli’s op. 6/8 but with some cheeky harmonic sliding at the end. The opening Largo of op. 5/6 continues with the same adventurous harmonies. The work comprises five movements, including two dances, a Gavotta and a Minuetto, and the Ensemble endows the first of these with infectious zest and spices the second with piquant tang. None of the sonatas of op. 5 in the recording represent Locatelli the diabolical virtuoso but rather the Gentleman Locatelli who, according to Schlepp, preferred to play with his fellow gentlemen than with professionals.
The four sonatas, op. 8, begin with op. 8/7, one of the five-movement works in the opus; it mixes the forward-looking homophony of the opening Andante with the backward-looking polyphony of its second-movement Fuga (albeit an energetic and cheerful, rather than an academic and dour, one). The second movement of op. 8/5 takes the collection even further from Corelli’s models (and closer to the ambiance of Locatelli’s concertos—the Ensemble’s infectious reading makes this departure eminently clear—but the sonata itself also includes a fugal movement, this time in the fourth position of five. The four-movement op. 8/9 reflects the older model, in its pattern of movements, but also, perhaps, in its interweaving of the violin parts in the opening Largo, its more stately fugue, the Corellian repose of its Grave, and the sequences of the Allegro, all of which the Ensemble capture with no sense of tongue-in-cheek, self-conscious anachronism. The final sonata, for violin, cello, and continuo, occasionally seems, as Schlepp remarks, to be a compound of two solo sonatas (one for violin, one for cello) smashed together like two used cars (or perhaps something more dignified). It’s as forward-looking harmonically and melodically as ingenious in its construction.
The Locatelli Trio (Elizabeth Wallfisch, Richard Tunnicliffe, and Paul Nicholson, with violinist Rachel Isserlis joining in the trio sonatas) energetically clothed the whole set with starchy timbres and decorated them with occasional ornamentation (Hyperion 67021/2), though, as I pointed out in Fanfare 19:6, those performances lack Andrew Manze’s wide-ranging imagination. The Ensemble Violini Capricciosi may not quite live up to its title in the way Manze might, but they swathe the works in a richer tonal warmth (perhaps due in part to a more resonant recording venue) and they don’t give so strong a suggestion of the hospital-like spic and span.
For those who know Locatelli principally through the 12 virtuosic violin concertos of his op. 3, the trio sonatas should provide an alternative point of view (with op. 8/9 serving as the terminus a quo and op. 8/5 as the terminus ad quem) that may make admirers even out of those who considered him as one of the purveyors (like perhaps Antonio Lolli or his student Michel Woldemar) of tawdry pre-Paganini virtuosic clap-trap. Strongly recommended for the music itself and for the dedicated, exciting performances.