Dynamic has done much to promote the art of Pavia-born Alessandro
Rolla. The solo violinist and composer was a distinguished orchestral
leader, not least at the theatre at La Scala in Milan, which
orchestra he joined in 1802 direct from a similar position in
Parma. By 1812 he was being talked of as the leading native
fiddle player and he earned the respect, over the years, of
Spohr, Paganini and Bazzini.
He composed nearly 600 works, of which there are 21 violin concertos.
The three in this disc are undated in the manuscripts and it
has proved impossible, stylistically, to ground them with any
certainty. Certainly it’s known that his earliest experiments
in the genre were published in the years between 1788 and 1794.
It would be interesting to know, though I appreciate it may
now be impossible to know, whether these three works were the
products of his last years in Parma, or his early to mid period
There isn’t much disharmony between the three. They are
very recognisably the work of the same composer; no great advances
in architecture, texture or novelty can be detected beyond the
embrace, in the A major, of a dance feature in the finale. They
call for a chamber-sized orchestra, here 5-6-3-3-1, and the
soloist-conductor is the sweet-toned Paolo Ghidoni. The band
is drawn from students, former students and teachers at the
conservatory in Mantua, though a look at the band’s personnel
in these recordings shows that three members are drawn from
the University of Parma. Aside from the strings there are two
oboes and two horns.
Rolla was a composer of gallant certainties, and the B flat
major concerto revels in long-breathed melody, a gracious and
rather vocalised slow movement - in Rolla’s case slow
movements tend to brevity - and a tastefully elegant finale.
His finales trade in episodes, sometimes three or four, invariably
with a brief and plangent (but not too plangent) detour to the
minor. The D major is another deft example of Italianate confidence.
Here the oboes have a more definite character. The writing is
idiomatic and clearly the work of a soloist; not many contrapuntal
touches, though maybe there are hints at Mozart from time to
time. Another of his ploys is to plunge the slow movement into
a remote key from that of the opening, which is something he
does here. Ghidoni plays with a light bow, and he avoids making
a big sound, prefering legato elegance to over-assertion in
this kind of repertoire. The A major seems to inhabit, formally
at least, a fluent Viennese cosmopolitanism and Rolla uses the
string body to provide a divan of sound for the lyrical soloist
above. For the finale, in a slightly unexpected turn, he employs
a polonaise rhythm, though it’s not very marked and doesn’t
overly draw attention to itself.
Small in scale though not necessarily in reach, these concertos
fare well here. They have been pretty well recorded, and annotated.
However it’s only fair to point out that the concertos
will appeal largely to Rolla adherents.