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GRAMOPHONE (07/2015)
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Reviewer: Lindsay Kemp
 

Giuseppe Tartini was a major 18th-century figure, a violinist-composer who from his base in Padua became one of Europe’s most admired players and teachers. Charles Burney, visiting Padua in 1770, regretted that he was only able to visit Tartini’s grave (though that ‘with the zeal of a Muslim in Mecca’), the great man having died just a few months earlier; ‘he was,’ wrote Burney, ‘one of the few original geniuses of our century, in the sense that all his ideas were his own.’

 

Recorded selections from his highly numerous violin sonatas that do not include the famous Devil’s Trill are relatively rare, but this is one, presenting six from a manuscript collection of 30 labelled by Tartini piccole sonate. There is no particular reason to regard them as small, however, save perhaps that they are conceived for solo violin; indeed, such is their strength and personality that it is hard to see why violinists have not performed them more. Very different from Bach, they are nevertheless far from being light fare from the stylistic crack between Baroque and Classical; technical challenges there may be but these are delicate, lyrical poems of febrile, sometimes even Romantic expressive-ness, ‘a miraculous balance between simplicity, depth and virtuosity, all in the service of expression,’ says David Plantier.

 

Andrew Manze (Harmonia Mundi, 5/98) and Chiara Banchini (Zig-Zag, A/08) have both dipped into this aspect of Tartini’s output to good end, and Peter Sheppard Skærved is currently working through all the piccole sonate for Toccata Classics. Plantier has cherished them for 20 years, however, and his performances really let you taste their special flavour in a fully convincing blend of singing sweetness, lightly worn virtuosity and stylistic authority. Tartini did write optional bass parts for some of these sonatas, and a cello plays them in two of the sonatas here, but they are rudimentary and hardly necessary; touching cantabile is Tartini’s gift and in Plantier’s hands easily carries the day.


   

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