Notes and Editorial Reviews
12 Violin Concertos,
Marco Pedrona, (vn); Guidantus Ens (period instruments)
CALI 1207 (2 CDs: 106:00)
The Guidantus Ensemble, as constituted for Cali’s recording of Carlo Tessarini’s 12 Violin Concertos, op. 1, consists only of solo violin, string quartet, archlute, and harpsichord. That may account for its somewhat thin ensemble textures (with prominent continuo), which the engineer, Andres Roca, has captured in a setting that doesn’t fill in the cracks (recording at 96 kHz;
the booklet specifies that Roca employed a “standard Decca tree” nevertheless spotlighting the solo violin and plucked continuo—amounting, in fact, to almost half of the instruments).
The notes explain that the opus divides evenly into two books, each beginning with a concerto in a minor key and ending with a jubilant one (all these concertos consisting of three movements). Tessarini hardly assigns a virtuosic role to the solo violinist in the First Concerto, with melodies less arch (and more reminiscent perhaps of Tomaso Albinoni than of Antonio Vivaldi; Tessarini used to be considered a follower of Corelli and even, perhaps, one of his students). Still, movements like the Largo of the Second Concerto reveal a lyrical gift that approaches if not equals Vivaldi’s (Tessarini, according to the notes, worked at another
in Venice during the older composer’s tenure in the city, perhaps explaining a detectable influence in passages like these, but in others as well). The finale of that Second Concerto, in Marco Pedrona’s bristling performance, lacks little of Vivaldi’s technical sparkle. In general, Pedrona, who also produced the CD set, plays with a somewhat edgy tone but without any of the whining or wheezing that once characterized period performance, and this manner of tone production makes him a persuasive soloist not only in cocky technical passages like those of the Fourth Concerto’s (or the Fifth Concerto’s) first Allegro (in both of which he almost spits out some of the pointed figuration), but also in slow movements like the Third Concerto’s Grave. Some of the slow movements, like that of the Fourth Concerto, sound relatively simple, while others, like the longer and more developed Largo from the Fifth Concerto, allow Pedrona to spin out an eloquent solo melody at greater leisure. The Sixth Concerto features a bridge passage consisting of chordal statements (perhaps they would have reverberated in the venue for which Tessarini intended this passage) and relatively solemn outer movements, of which the ensemble, however small, gives an appropriately serious representation.
The book’s second half opens with another minor-key concerto (the composer cast only the First, Seventh, and Ninth in minor—E Minor, A Minor, and A Minor, respectively). The first movement’s harmonic sequences recall Vivaldi’s, as do its occasional pauses, while the second movement offers Pedrona another opportunity to showcase his winning way with a lyrical phrase. The ensemble struts playfully in the opening and closing movements of the Eighth Concerto and serves in the first movement of the minor-key Ninth Concerto as a backdrop, sometimes animated, for the soloist’s violinistic figuration (Pedrona takes effective advantage of the Adagio’s opportunities for melting
). The orchestra plays with what sounds like appropriate reserve in the stately first movement of the 10th Concerto and in the Largo, which recalls, at least in its
section, similar passages in Corelli’s works, while the final Allegro, with its strong-minded ensemble declamations, recalls Vivaldi’s sharply etched motives. The 11th Concerto begins with a tangy gnomic motive, and the soloist enters with vigorous if not virtuosic figuration. It’s clear why these works might have appealed to Telemann, who himself eschewed display and imparted considerable bounce to his passages by more purely musical means. The Largo, however, might have been lifted directly from one of Vivaldi’s works. Pedrona plays the piquant motives of the 12th Concerto’s first movement with a zestful energy that renders it (with its brief but bright cadenza) one of the most appealing moments of the entire collection. The Largo is fully worthy of the first movement, with an ingratiating melody poured out over a strummed accompaniment. The ensemble plays the finale percussively, as a thumping conclusion not only to the concerto but to the set as well; Pedrona contributes a sparkling solo and a pyrotechnical cadenza at the end.
Those who persist through the entire set will notice the ensemble’s tendency to take broad ritards at the ends of movements, ending with a thump in the continuo, but this practice never descends to the level of mannerism. For those who wish to explore the Venetian solo concerto, Cali’s collection will make some relatively unfamiliar concertos available for study. That they’re worthy of the time required for study seems clear from Telemann’s including four of them (from this very opus, according to the booklet’s notes) along with three others by Vivaldi and Albinoni in a performance in 1725, a year after their appearance. Recommended particularly to students of the period, but everyone should hear the stunning 12th Concerto in this equally stunning performance by Pedrona and the ensemble.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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