Mstation Classical Reviews

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Sat, 02 Sep 2006


Tomaso ALBINONI (1671-1751)
6 Sonate da chiesa Op. 4 
12 Trattenementi Armonici per camera Op. 6
The Locatelli Trio 
rec Nov 1991 & Jan 1992, Cologne, Germany
HYPERION DYAD CDD22048 (two discs) [79.40] & [79.40]

Hyperion’s Dyad series presents the purchaser with a good two-discs-for-the-price-of-one reissue option. These recordings were originally made in co-operation with the Cologne regional state broadcaster WDR [Westdeutscher Rundfunk] and issued go together well as a mixed package of Opp 4 and 6. There is little enough stylistic difference between the two publications, all adopting the four movement slow-fast-slow-fast pattern established by Corelli and standard as format for the serious sonata da chiesa structure throughout the baroque.

Albinoni is a well enough known name, but it is interesting here to listen to some of his serious chamber music. He has been tainted in many minds over recent years by the likes of Famous Albinoni Adagios and compilation discs of the same ilk, which generally present pretty turgid performances of parts of the orchestral works. To the early 18th century Italian composer the sonata and it’s closely related trio-sonata form (generally of two violins and basso continuo) represented the apogee of compositional craftsmanship, as well as the entree to the world of published composition. In these works Albinoni lavishes a wealth of inventive material, carefully balanced between melodic lyricism and flamboyant virtuosity. These performances by the Locatelli Trio (Elizabeth Wallfisch – violin; Richard Tunnicliffe – cello and Paul Nicholson – harpsichord) show a profound understanding of the subtleties that are inherent in this juxtaposition. The virtuosity is apparent, but never obvious and the beauty of Wallfisch’s violin sound is impressive.

Of course, this is all on instruments of the period, so the richness of the violin sound is quite different to that of the modern instrument. There is still debate about this, although one often fails to see why there should be. The thinner, suppler tone of the gut-strung instrument is so obviously the right accent for the voice of Albinoni’s music. Likewise, the continuo team of Tunnicliffe and Nicholson supports the solo line, but appreciates the importance of the bass line as a duet function in this period of music. Throughout, the balance of these functions is kept in play. It is also indicative of the attention to detail that, although the discs represent over 2 ½ hours of music the programme structure has carefully combined major and minor key works, resulting in a pleasant flow of tonalities, although the range of keys in which Albinoni writes is necessarily limited to those in common use at the time; nothing strays beyond two sharps or flats, except for a singe sonata in the (for the time) distant key of c minor [disc 1, tracks 25-28], and yet there is no feeling of monotony.

The Locatelli Trio no longer work as an ensemble, which is a shame, as they were one of the English groups that were seminal through the 80’s and early 90’s in taking the performance of this sort of small scale baroque music to a higher plane of excellence in performance. These recordings will remain definitive for many years and it is good to see them brought out in this combined format.

© Peter Wells 2006

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