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Fanfare Magazine: 39:2 (11-12/2015) 
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Reviewer: Bertil van Boer

The actual title of this album is La Serenissima: Venetian Church Sonatas, which I suppose ought to be a nod to the traditional Baroque trio sonata, which in da chiesa fashion consists of two pairs of slow-fast movements. To be sure, Archangelo Corelli did more or less publish the standard format, which continued right on up into the middle of the 18th century with his op. 1–4 sonatas, but these were both da camera and da chiesa, chamber and church respectively, both structurally the same, but with more counterpoint in the latter. Given that this was conventional by 1700 and even earlier, it is not surprising that a composer such as Tomaso Albinoni would endeavor to produce a set of six works for general consumption. These comprise his first publication, and probably they did more to establish his early reputation in 1694 at the age of 23 than any other first try. Although cast in the form of the da chiesa, with slow movements reflecting largely suspensions and faster ones that are contrapuntal, there is no real indication that they were particularly meant for church, let alone one in Venice, which was a publishing center for all sorts of music. But they might have been, too, for the form was popular integrated into the worship services of the time.

There is nothing in particular that makes these sonatas outstanding from others in the genre. They are carefully constructed, with good use of harmonies in which the melody instruments clash momentarily with each other and then spread apart in parallel, generally a third apart (with suspensions, of course). There are even occasional passages of six-four parallelisms, which seem both modern and old-fashioned at the same time, as in the ending of the third movement of the A-Major Third Sonata. Albinoni doesn’t always adhere to the contrapuntal nature of his sonatas. For example, the final movement of the A-Minor Sixth Sonata is a mincing dance, almost a minuet, but to redeem itself, the final flourish contains imitative passages, so he apparently hedged his stylistic bets here. The G-Minor Fourth Sonata is lovely and reflective, with a gentle floating of the contrasting lines that would be more in keeping with Corelli, and this is followed by a mysterious fanfare-style fugue, a mincing Sarabande with the obligatory suspensions, and finally an insistent dance-like conclusion. All of this demonstrates that the young composer was already quite proficient at his craft.

The op. 1, however, is too short to fill out a disc, so a couple of pieces by Antonio Vivaldi have been added as filler. One of these is a compatible trio sonata (RV 81) for a pair of oboes and continuo that can be found in Lund at the University library there in manuscript. It is clearly a more modern composition, as it has three movements in traditional fast-slow-fast format. The first movement is a nicely copasetic duet with a jaunty main theme, while the second seems almost like an operatic lament with some odd cadential harmonic twists and a mournful theme. The finale could be right out of one of Vivaldi’s concertos, with swirling virtuosity and a steady gait in the continuo. The solo oboe sonata begins with an odd dotted-rhythm theme in the continuo, which acts like an ostinato above which the oboe meanders. The other slow movement has a mysterious, thin quality to the theme with the sparse continuo picking its way underneath. The finale of this is a tour de force for the oboe, which seems to tumble right along in a perpetual motion theme made up of rapid triplet figuration.

The Albinoni, of course, was originally meant for a pair of violins, but given the variety of trio sonatas of the day, it was probably equally performable on other melody instruments, foremost flutes, recorders, or oboes (as is the case here). Jaime González has a nice, rounded tone, and he displays a considerable range of good technique. He is complemented by Pietro Corna on second, and the continuo group adds a bassoon, presumably to even out the timbres of the woodwinds. The result is a solid and very clean performance, which gives Albinoni’s conventional music life. As the forerunner of a future career as a musician, these works are the composer’s entré into the musical world and González and his ensemble do them full justice.


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