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Tomaso ALBINONI (1671-1751)
6 Sonate da chiesa Op.4 (1708)
12 Trattenimenti armonici per camera Op.6 (1711)

Sonata in C major Op. 6 No. 1 [8:35]
Sonata in G minor Op. 4 No. 4 [6:58]
Sonata in B flat major Op. 6 No. 3 [7:27]
Sonata in F major Op. 6 No. 5 [9:35]
Sonata in B minor Op. 4 No. 6 [6:22]
Sonata in G major Op. 6 No. 9 [10:18]
Sonata in C minor Op. 6 No. 10 [10:27]
Sonata in G minor Op. 4 No. 5 [10:22]
Sonata in D major Op. 6 No. 7 [8:32]
Sonata in D major Op. 6 No. 2 [10:37]
Sonata in D minor Op. 4 No. 1 [8:38]
Sonata in E minor Op. 6 No. 8 [8:15]
Sonata in A major Op. 6 No. 11 [8:19]
Sonata in E minor Op. 4 No. 2 [8:09]
Sonata in B flat major Op. 6 No. 12 [9:36]
Sonata in D minor Op. 6 No. 4 [8:40]
Sonata in F major Op. 4 No. 3 [7:04]
Sonata in A minor Op. 6 No. 6 [9:11]
The Locatelli Trio: Elizabeth Wallfisch (violin), Richard Tunnicliffe (cello), Paul Nicholson (harpsichord [Op.6], organ [Op.4])
rec. November 1991 and January 1992, Gewölbkeller am Römertum, Cologne.
HYPERION DYAD CDD22048 [79:40 + 79:40]

 

Albinoni’s instrumental music is characterised more by its refinement than its passion; indeed, its emotional range is quite narrow. His music is somewhat reserved, even fastidious, carefully cultivating elegance of line and a graceful politeness; it is careful not to startle or, as it were, to draw excessive attention to itself. One might be tempted to describe it as aristocratic; certainly it cares about its dignity.

Perhaps Albinoni’s slightly ambiguous place in Venetian society had something to do with the presence of such characteristics in his music. The son of a wealthy paper merchant, he was, in effect an ‘amateur’ musician; yet his background in trade meant that he was not fully accepted by the highest ranks of Venetian society. One can see why he might have been so meticulous a composer, so careful that no charge of vulgarity could ever be brought against his music.

Yet, even if Albinoni’s chamber music is largely without the extravagance of Veracini or the dramatic gestures of Vivaldi, it is certainly not without its own subtle charms. These violin sonatas – for that is what they all are, the title of trattenimenti ’entertainments’ being, in all probability, no more than a label attached by a publisher – contain some beautiful melodies in their slow movements, often elegiac in mood but never excessively self-indulgent. In some of the faster movements – such as the two allegros of no.10 in the op. 6 set, Albinoni creates politely energetic, characteristically decorous versions of the allemande and the gigue.

Though the violin is certainly the ‘star’ of the proceedings, Albinoni’s writing for the bass instruments is generally inventive and subtle.

Without ever approaching wildness or abandonment, Albinoni’s shows himself well capable, when he wishes to be, of writing powerfully emotional music. This is certainly the case in opus 6 no. 8, which packs a considerable punch.

Elizabeth Wallfisch brings precise articulation and a sympathetic understanding of Albinoni’s idioms to her playing of these sonatas. She and her colleagues are rhythmically alert and bring some finely nuanced playing to fast and slow movements alike. Some of the faster movements can be – and sometimes have been – played with more sense of fantasy than Wallfisch brings to them, but I find her vision of Albinoni persuasive and consistent.

Eighteen sonatas, all in the sonata da chiesa form of four movements, slow-fast-slow-fast – don’t, it has to be said, make for the most varied of listening if one spends a full 160 minutes listening to the two CDs right through. But as a resource on one’s CD shelves, taken down from time to time to listen to one or two sonatas, this is excellent and valuable.

Glyn Pursglove

 


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