While J.S. Bach’s Suites for solo cello are, by definition, closely identified with Mstislav Rostropovich as the supreme cellist of his time, the B flat concerto of Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach represents a more unusual departure. It is programmed here with two concertos in D major by Italian composers of the elder Bach’s generation, Antonio Vivaldi and Giuseppe Tartini.
Italian violinist Enrico Gatti has made various recordings of the late Baroque violin repertory with Ensemble 415 and other groups, and his booklet notes, as encrusted with decorations as the music itself, are always part of the attraction. Here he holds forth, in English, French, and German translations of the original Italian, on Giuseppe Tartini's life and career, heading his reflections with an Emily Dickinson poem (unfortunately somewhat less effective in German) and diverging into such avenues as an attack on daily newspaper journalism as it pertains to Baroque music.
Violinist James Ehnes has firmly established himself as a master of the modern repertoire and to a lesser extent, the Romantic, so his album of Antonio Vivaldi's perennial violin concertos, The Four Seasons, Giuseppe Tartini's "Devil's Trill" Sonata, and Jean-Marie Leclair's "Tambourin" Sonata is an unexpected detour into the Baroque. The fame and popularity of these pieces guarantees Ehnes an audience, and he, like everyone else, shouldn't be criticized for recording them, though his choice of the modern Sydney Symphony Orchestra for the Vivaldi, and Fritz Kreisler's arrangement of the Tartini for violin and piano, suggests that he isn't really trying to compete with most contemporary recordings, least of all the various period-style releases.
At last, a disc of Tartini violin music that doesn't include the Devil's Trill sonata! (For some reason, that G minor work has been turning up a lot lately.) No, this is a group of concertos, and before the first has concluded you're wondering why (with all due respect) Vivaldi gets so much attention when music of this quality and inventiveness is around. One reason may be a question of quantity and historical misfortune: until recently dozens of Tartini's 200 known violin concertos were believed lost, but the four performed here were recently discovered "at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris."
…While his works are often extraordinarily difficult, their virtuosity rises out of a desire to express rather than amaze; here a lightening quick leap of the bow to portray the fury of a princess scorned; there a fiendishly painful trill to mimic diabolical laughter. It is this intense pictorial inward gaze which seems at least as strong as his desire to create ‘brave sport' that sets him somewhat apart from his colleagues…
The music on this recording demonstrates how composers in Germany, Italy, Austria and England responded to the challenges of writing for violin senza basso. Music for violin senza basso had a distinguished history before Bach and was widely cultivated by his contemporaries. Violinistic virtuosity was extraordinarily experimental in the late seventeenth century, with novelties in the tuning of the strings (scordaura), bowing techniques, chordal playing and contrapuntal textures (with the development of sophisticated double-, triple- and quadruple-stopping techniques) and playing in high positions. This disc of solo violin music is a real mixture of some of Rachel’s favourite pieces.