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Divertimenti Viennesi
Karl Ditters von DITTERSDORF (1739-1799)
Six String Trios for two Violins and Violone [54.02]
Jan Křtitle VAŇHAL (1739-1813)
Divertimento in G for Violin, Viola and Violone [17.16]
Johann Michael HAYDN (1737-1806)
Divertimento in C for Violin, Viola and Violone [16.24]
Musica Elegantia/Matteo Cicchitti
rec. 2017, S.S. Salvatore Church, “Santuario del Beato Roberto”, Salle (PE), Italy
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 96127 [54.02 + 34.13]

The Divertimento – in all its many different and endlessly variable formats - is not the most emotionally intense of forms: it exists, above all, to delight; and the pieces on this release are genuinely delightful. They come, as far as can be ascertained, from between 1760 and 1770, the height of the Classical period, and are unaffected by even a hint of Sturm und Drang. They are designed for pleasure, and, in these performances, will not disappoint.

The three players of Musica Elegantia (Mauro Righini plays both violin and viola, as required) use period instruments, and scholarly sensitivity to 18th century practice is evident throughout. Articulation is clear, and while the violin frequently carries the main melody, there is much to enjoy in the sound of the violine (a sort of five stringed double bass viol, tuned C-E-A-d-g) as an alternative to a cello. I suspect its carrying power is less than that of the cello, but it is ideally suited to the conversational scale of these pieces, which would have been played in more intimate spaces than a twentieth century concert hall. It adds a fresh dimension.

Dittersdorf’s Six Trios, which take up the first CD, are each in two movements, a quick movement, usually allegro, and a minuet. It might be a stretch – given limited variety of movements – to describe these as ‘divertimenti’ – but the charm and galante character permits us to use the term, at least analogously. Each is delightful, but the third is probably most striking, with viola instead of second violin creating an interesting interplay in the first movement, and the minuet is very lively and charming.

The second CD, though brief, has more developed divertimenti. Vaňhal’s work, in five movements (Allegro-Minuetto-Adagio-Minuetto-Allegro). The first and last movements roughly follow sonata form, and the finale, despite being terse at around two and a half minutes, has a level of invention which lingers in the memory.

With Michael Haydn I should confess a bias – I am a great enthusiast for his music and my eyes lit up when I saw his name on the recording. He was a considerable composer (big brother Josef thought his many masses superior to his own), Salzburg-based, but like Josef attentive to the sometimes quirky detail. This Divertimento (one of about 30 in his output) is the most inventive in the present collection. It has a conventional four movement structure, and Haydn gives the lower instruments a genuine equality with the violin. The Adagio is a lovely, gentle piece, the minuet filled with surprises, including a pizzicato passage towards the end, and the finale, which has no second subject, is in concertante style.

The performances lack nothing in panache; attentive in detail – aided by clear recording in a fine ambience – they maintain forward movement. The accompanying notes, by Giorgio Pagannone, are detailed and informative, with valuable information about performance as well as the composers and the music.

Overall, then, a delightful release, and, at Brilliant’s remarkably low price, a very tempting one for lovers of 18th Century music.

Michael Wilkinson

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