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Francesco Maria CATTANEO (c. 1697-1758)
Violin Concertos (Dresden 1730/1740)
Concerto in A major (Gradual Concerto) [7:09]
Concerto in F major [7:12]
Concerto in D major [9:26]
Concerto in A major (Schwerin Concerto) [9:31]
Concerto in A major [11:30]
Anonymous (Dresden, Schranck No:II)
Sinfonia in G major [6:20]
Ouverture in C minor [17:13]
Sinfonia in B flat major [4:51]
Wouter Verschuren (bassoon), L’arpa festante / Anton Sterck (violin)
rec. 2019, Martinskirche Müllheim/Baden, Germany
ACCENT ACC24364 [73:23]

Francesco Maria Cattaneo is a new name to me as I suspect he will be to many people, his online presence only rating a page on German Wikipedia at time of writing. The booklet notes for this release tell us that nothing is known about his early years and musical education, but his career saw him in service to the courts in Munich and Dresden, travelling to Poland and for a while to Venice in 1728 where it is more than likely that he came into contact with Antonio Vivaldi.

The fruitful confluence of the Dresden tradition of Hasse and that Italian influence of Vivaldi can certainly both be heard in these concertos, and the virtuosity in the solo parts is certainly equal to that heard from Vivaldi – indeed, Sebastian Biesold’s notes pull no punches in this regard: “If one assumes that Cattaneo tailored these concertos to himself, one can certainly hear them as violin egodocuments.” The quality of the music is however much more than merely a vehicle for virtuoso display, with the “suspenseful dissonant friction” in the slow central movements and “the soughing and rhythmically striking outer movements, underlined in part by percussive bass ostinati, whereby metrically even first movements oppose dance-like final movements” delivering a beguiling package in each concerto. Also striking are the cadenzas, though these are suspected as having been added later by Pisendel who transcribed most of the music heard here.

This is a nicely recorded album and its programme has a fine mixture of pieces, with Anton Steck joined by period bassoon specialist Wouter Verschuren in the Concerto in D for a satisfying contrast, and the anonymous works well spaced to add further diversity. The “Schranck No:II” source consists of a catalogue of around 1,750 pieces of music, and the examples here are typical of Dresden’s cosmopolitan musical tastes in the early to mid-18th century. Anton Steck has already made numerous recordings, including Beethoven and Molique on the Accent label as well as Benda for CPO. His style goes for verve and energy rather than the utmost refinement and beauty of violin sound, and this suits these Cattaneo concerti well, bringing the period feel to life in a way that a more conventionally perfect soloist might not have. L’arpa festante is an excellent ensemble, playing with taste and a feel of joie de vivre, the string sound enhanced by a crisp harpsichord or gentle lute, depending on the mood in any particular movement. If the music of this period appeals and you are interested in exploring one of the less well-trodden paths of musical history then this release will by no means disappoint.

Dominy Clements

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