VIOTTI: Violin Concerto No. 23 / Sinfonie Concertanti (Accademia I Filarmonici/ Alberto Martini/ Aldo Sisillo/ Gian Andrea Lodovici/ Mauro Ranieri/ Roberto Baraldi) (Naxos: 8.553861)
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Giovanni Battista Viotti was born in Italy to a blacksmith and amateur horn-player father. At the age of 11, his mother having died, he was 'adopted' by the wealthy Marchesa di Voghera, who provided expert musical training, his teachers having a direct link with Vivaldi and Corelli.
In 1775 Viotti became a member of the Royal Court orchestra in Turin where he stayed until 1783. He then moved to Paris where he enjoyed tremendous success and entered the service of Queen Marie Antoinette. He was instrumental in creating a new opera company, but the fall of the Bastille in 1789 presented problems for anyone with a royal connections, and Viotti hastily moved to London.
He resumed his career as a violinist, and his music was now being performed. Yet he was intent on becoming a wine-merchant had the witch-hunt for French revolutionaries in London caused his unjustified expulsion from the country. He moved to Germany from where he cleared his name, and in 1800 moved back to London to resume his objective of establishing a wine business. That eventually failed, and with the monarchy restored in France, he returned to Paris where his patron, now Louis XVIII, elevated him to director of the Paris Opera.
Intrigue forced him from the theatre, and he returned to London in 1823, where he died in poverty the following year, but well cared for by his friends.
It is strange that he should have found time, or the experience, to compose so much music. It included violin concertos, fifteen quartets, numerous trios and duos.
Yet it was his influence on violin technique that was the most important contribution, and that is also apparent in his compositions.
The Violin Concerto No.23 was written in London in 1792. It became famous when arranged as a piano concerto by Dussek, and is a score both strong in melody and in the orchestral scoring. It also requires a soloist with a comprehensive technique, the cadenza at the end of the first movement a passage of sheer virtuosity. The central movement is a spacious Andante, with a cheerful and vivacious final Allegro containing a further brilliant cadenza.
The two Sinfonia Concertante come from Paris in 1786. It was a musical form that had come into vogue in the 18th century, and was in the form of a score for chamber group in which one or more instruments play a major role. In Viotti's two works, he scores the solo roles for two violins. The first is in three movements, fast - slow - fast, and is for strings with optional horns or oboes. The second has optional parts for double woodwind and horns, and was originally in two movements, but Viotti made a further version in which he added a third movement to create a piano concerto.
The music is strong melodically and demonstrates a composer of considerable ability.
A tragic road accident the day after he had made this recording, robbed Italy of one of their finest young violinists. Mauro Ranieri was just 33 and was making a big career as a soloist. He was a pupil of the great Tibor Varga, and was now also teaching young people at the Verdi Conservatoire.
Roberto Baraldi and Alberto Martini, the soloists in the Sinfonie Concertanti, are both specialists in baroque music. Martini is the founder-soloist of I Filarmonici Chamber Orchestra, and has already made a number of recordings for Naxos.
Aldo Sisillo is a conductor interested in music at both ends of the time spectrum, with many performances of contemporary music sharing his time with an expertise in baroque scores. He is also a composer with his works performed in major European festivals.
The Accademia dei Filarmonici is one of the leading chamber orchestras in Europe. It normally performs without a conductor and has made many broadcasts and recordings. It first began recording for Naxos in 1995.