Italian Concerti Grossi (Capella Istropolitana/ Jaroslav Krecek/ Karol Kopernicky) (Naxos: 8.550877)
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Italian Concerti Grossi
Giovanni Battista Sammartini (1700 or 1701 - 1775)
Sinfonia in A Major
Tomaso Albinoni (1671 - 1751)
Sonata a cinque in G Minor, Op. 2, No.6
Antonio Vivaldi (1678 - 1741)
Concerto in A Minor con due violini obligati
Op. 3, No.8, RV 522
Pietro Locatelli (1695 - 1764)
Concerto Grosso in G Minor, Op. 1, No.12
Francesco Manfredini (1684 - 1762)
Sinfonia No.10 in C Minor
Arcangelo Corelli (1653 - 1713)
Concerto Grosso in D Major, Op. 6, No.4
Francesco Geminiani (1687 - 1762)
Concerto Grosso in C Minor, Op. 2, No.2
Alessandro Scarlatti (1660 - 1725)
Concerto Grosso No.3 in F Major
By the early eighteenth century Italy had become still more firmlyestablished as the source of much European musical activity. Italian opera helda dominant position in the musical theatre, while Italian instrumental music andits performers were heard from Lisbon to London, St. Petersburg and Vienna. TheItalian instrumental style found its most influential expression in the work ofthe violinist Arcangelo Corelli. Born in Fusignano in 1653, he studied inBologna, before establishing himself in Rome in the 1670s, entering the serviceof Queen Christina of Sweden towards the end of the decade, and later benefitingfrom the patronage of Cardinal Pamphili, with regular performances at thelatter's Palazzo al Corso. His principal patron for the last twenty years of hislife was the young Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, nephew of Pope Alexander VIII. Corelli'sinfluence was very considerable in a number of ways. He was greatly respected asa teacher of the violin, while his compositions, played by musicians disciplinedunder his direction, served as models for a coming generation. His publishedworks include 48 trio sonatas, a dozen violin sonatas and, issued posthumouslyin 1714 in Amsterdam, a set of twelve concerti grossi, Opus 6. The fourth ofthese, the Concerto grosso in D major, is characteristic inform andcontent. A brief slow introduction, a call to the listener's attention, isfollowed by a lively Allegro, in which the two solo violins and solo cello ofthe concertino group are contrasted with the rest of the string orchestra, theripieno players. There is a moving Adagio, a short fast movement and a finalmovement in the rhythm of a gigue, ending with a rapid and emphatic concludingsection.
Alessandro Scarlatti, father of the prolific composer of keyboard sonatas,Domenico, and member of a family of musicians ubiquitous in Naples, was born inPalermo in 1660 and had his musical training in Rome, where he enjoyed thepatronage of Queen Christina of Sweden. In 1684 he was appointed maestro dicappella to the Spanish Viceroy of Naples. There, for the next twenty years, hebusied himself in the composition and performance of operas that enjoyedcurrency elsewhere in Italy and as far north as Brunswick and Leipzig. In 1702he moved to Florence in hope of an appointment at the court of Prince Ferdinandode'Medici and then to Rome. He returned to Naples in 1708 at the invitation of anew Viceroy and it seems to have been in his later years, during which hemaintained also his connection with Rome, that he turned his attention to purelyinstrumental music, after his long involvement with opera, serenatas, cantatasand church music. His Concerti grossi are relatively conservative in style,offering music that is attractive enough, but lacking the innovative spirit ofhis operas and their overtures, seminal examples of the Italian three- movementsymphony.
Venice by the early eighteenth century lacked political power, but continuedas a centre for foreign visitors, attracted by the beauty of the place and itsdelights and novelties, not least the music offered by the four charitableinstitutions for orphan, illegitimate or indigent girls. At one of theseestablishments, the Ospedale della Piet?á, the red-haired priest Antonio Vivaldiwas employed intermittently from the year of his ordination in 1703 until hisdeparture in 1741 for Vienna, where he died shortly after his arrival. Vivaldi,also active as a composer of opera, was himself a violinist of greatdistinction, providing the Piet?á with a vast quantity of concertos for variousinstruments, many of which enjoyed wide popularity abroad. A set of twelveconcertos for strings and continuo, with varied numbers of solo violins, waspublished in 1711 with a dedication to Prince Ferdinando of Tuscany and underthe title L'estro armonico, numbered Opus 3. The second concerto of theset, with a solo group of two violins and cello, the Concerto in A minor, in thenewly established three-movement form, was later transcribed for organ by JohannSebastian Bach. It is a lively and spirited work, its course interrupted by anexpressive slow movement.
Prince Ferdinando did not outlive his father and barely outlived Corelli,dying in 1713. The Venetian composer Tomaso Albinoni also benefited from hispatronage, although initially himself of independent means, the son of awell-to-do paper-merchant. He dedicated his first set of sinfonie and concerti,published in 1700, to another patron, the Gonzaga Duke of Mantua. Theserelatively early works continue the tradition of Corelli, with four movements,slow - fast - slow - fast.
Manfredini, Locatelli, Geminiani and Sammartini belong to another generation.
Francesco Manfredini, born in Pistoia in 1684, like Corelli studied music inBologna, in the musical establishment attached to the great Basilica of SanPetronio, where he worked intermittently, with a period seemingly in the serviceof the ruler of Monaco. He spent the last 35 years of his life in his nativecity as maestro di cappella at the cathedral. His instrumental works belong tothe period before his return to Pistoia, written and published in Bologna in thefirst twenty years of the century. The Sinfonia in C minor follows theestablished pattern of the church sonata, an introductory slow movement followedby a contrapuntal faster movement. A second slow movement precedes a final rapidcontrapuntal movement in compound metre.
Pietro Antonio Locatelli was born in Bergamo in 1695 and may perhaps havestudied very briefly with Corelli in Rome in 1712. He enjoyed the earlypatronage of Cardinal Ottoboni and later of a patron of Vivaldi, the HabsburgGovernor of Mantua, under whom he held the title of virtuoso da camera. In 1729he settled in Amsterdam, restricting his own career as a virtuoso performer anddirecting his attention largely to gifted amateurs. His first collection ofconcerti grossi was published in Amsterdam in 1721 and revised eight yearslater, when he made his home in that city. Like Geminiani, he includes a violain the concerti no group, with two violins and cello, while adopting the orderof Corelli's concerti grossi, eight church concerti being followed by fourchamber concerti, sets of dance movements. The Concerto grosso in G minor,Opus 1, No.12, includes the customary German dance, the Allemanda and aSarabande, and ends, less usually, with a Gavotte.
The violinist and composer Francesco Geminiani, born in Lucca in 1687, was apupil of Corelli and of Alessandro Scarlatti in Rome, but moved in 1714 toLondon, where he initially enjoyed the patronage of Baron Kielmansegge, who, aschamberlain to the King, had been instrumental in Handel's appointment inHanover and his further acceptance by the new court in London. Geminiani hadvery considerable success in England and in Ireland bo