MANFREDINI: Concerti Grossi Op. 3, Nos. 1-12
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Francesco OnofrioManfredini (1684-1762)
Concerti grossi, fortwo violins and basso continuo, Op. 3
Francesco Manfredini was born in Pistoia in 1684, the son of atrombonist. He studied in Bologna, taking violin lessons from Giuseppe Torelli,a leading figure in the development of the concerto grosso, with itssmall group of solo instruments, and of the solo concerto. Like Torelli,Manfredini also studied composition with Giacomo Antonio Perti, maestro dicappella at the Basilica of San Petronio from 1696, the year in which theorchestra of San Petronio was, for the moment, dissolved.
Before 1700 Manfredini was in Ferrara, serving as a violinist at theChurch of San Spirito, but in 1704 he returned to Bologna, employed again inthe orchestra of San Petronio then re-established. He also became a member ofthe Accademia Filarmonica and in the same year published a set of twelvechamber sonatas under the title Concertini per camera, Op. 1. In1709 he published in Bologna a further set of instrumental compositions, twelveSinfonie da chiesa, Op. 2, in fact church sonatas that complementthe earlier chamber sonatas. From 1711 it seems that Manfredini was in Monaco,in the service of Prince Antoine I, who had come to the throne of theprincipality in 1701 and had been a pupil of Lully, whose conductor's stick hehad inherited. Manfredini is mentioned in Monaco court records in 1712 and the Concerti,Op. 3, published in Bologna in 1718, are dedicated to the Prince,who also had in his library copies of Manfredini's Sinfonie, Op. 2. Theexact length of his stay in Monaco and the nature of his connection with thecourt is uncertain. The Prince, however, served as godfather to Manfredini'sson Antonio Francesco and four other children were seemingly born to thecomposer in Monaco. By 1727, however, he was again in Pistoia, as maestro dicappella at the Cathedral, a position he retained until his death in 1762.
His son Vincenzo, later maestro di cappella of the Italian opera in StPetersburg, was born in Pistoia in 1737 and another son, Giuseppe, had a careeras a castrato singer.
Concerto No. 1 of the Opus 3 set has a first movement that allows dynamiccontrast without specific use of the concertino solo group. The 12/8second movement has a concluding echo effect, while the final duple-metre Allegroprovides a rhythmic contrast.
The first movement of Concerto No. 2 also ends with a slowsection, before its repetition, and there is a short solo ending to the secondmovement. The concerto ends with a 3/8 Allegro, a contrast to thepreceding common-time movements.
Triple metre marks the second, slow movement of Concerto No. 3,framed by faster outer movements, the first making much use of a descendingarpeggio figure and a third marked Presto, like the even more energeticfinal movement.
Concerto No. 4 is also in four movements, the first an Allegro markedby dotted rhythms and the second a thirteen-bar Adagio. The following12/8 Presto makes a contrast, with its gigue rhythm, to the final Allegro.
There is a brief slow section to start Concerto No. 5, followedby a 12/8 Allegro in which a solo violin makes its first appearance,accompanied by basso continuo, after the entry in imitation of first andsecond violins. The Andante e piano sempre allows a solo violin rapid brokentriad patterns over a repeated accompaniment rhythm. The solo violin again hasan important part to play in the final Allegro.
There is a similar procedure in Concerto No. 6, with relativelyextended passages that give prominence to a solo violin. Three Adagio barsare followed by a Presto, a solo violin taking pride of placethroughout, with its rapid arpeggios. The final triple-metre movement includessolo arpeggio passages, an element of display.
The first movement of Concerto No. 7 again allows the soloviolin a chance for technical virtuosity. A common-time Adagio, with itsown solo passages, is succeeded by a 3/8 Presto.
There is a seven-bar slow introduction to Concerto No. 8,followed by au Allegro. An Adagio that allows antiphonal responsebetween first and second violins leads to a 1218 Presto, with slowclosing bars preceding a triple-metre second Presto.
Two solo violins open Concerto No. 9 with an Adagio, followedby a Presto shared between solo instruments and the whole ensemble. An Amajor Largo precedes an Allegro that makes continued antiphonaluse of the two solo violins.
Concerto No. 10 starts with a slow movement that makes immediate contrastbetween the solo instruments and the full ensemble. There are imitative entriesbetween first and second violins in the energetic Allegro, followed by asimilar procedure between the solo instruments. The ensuing Largo providesa moment of respite before the final 3/8 Presto.
A familiar arpeggio figuration marks the opening ritornello of ConcertoNo. 11, continued in the antiphonal passage that follows for the twosolo violins of the concertino group. More technically demanding writingfor the solo instruments follows, in turn. The Adagio modulates from Eflat major to a major, the dominant chord that serves to introduce a final 12/8Allegro in the original key of C minor, initiated by the two soloviolins, in imitation one of the other.
The set ends with a Christmas Concerto, on a pattern familiarfrom Torelli and well known from the use Corelli made of the form, finallypublished in 1713. The concerto opens with a Pastorale, an evocation, bymeans of the pastoral Siciliano dance, of the shepherds at the birth ofChrist. There is a Largo that modulates from A minor and a final Allegrothat restores the original key of C major in lively imitation between thesolo instruments, with a final passage that again suggests the pastoral in itsuse of a sustained pedal-note, a bagpipe drone.
The Capella Istropolitana was founded in 1983 by members of the SlovakPhilharmonic Orchestra, at first as a chamber orchestra and then as anorchestra large enough to tackle the standard classical repertoire. Based in Bratislava,its name drawn from the ancient name still preserved in the AcademiaIstropolitana, the orchestra has made numerous recordings and undertakesfrequent tours throughout Europe.
The Czech conductor and composer Jaroslav Krček was born in southern Bohemia in 1939 andstudied composition and conducting at the Prague Conservatory. In 1962 he movedto Pilsen as a conductor and radio producer and in 1967 returned to Prague towork as a recording supervisor for Supraphon. In the capital he founded theChorea Bohemicaensemble and in 1975 the chamber orchestra Musica Bohemica. In the CzechRepublic he is well known for his arrangements of Bohemian folk music, whilehis electro-acoustic opera Raab was awarded first prize at theInternational Composers' Competition in Geneva. He is the artistic leader ofCapella Istropolitana.