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The Art of the Mandolin (Avi Avital)

Avi Avital (mandolin), et al; Venice Baroque Orchestra (DG)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

The Art of the Mandolin
Works by Beethoven, Ben-Haim, David Bruce, Henze, D Scarlatti, Giovanni Sollima and Vivaldi
Avi Avital, Alon Sariel (mandolin), Sean Shibe (guitar), Anneleen Lenaerts (harp), Ophira Zakal (theorbo), Yizhar Karshon (harpsichord), Patrick Sepec (cello); Venice Baroque Orchestra
DG 483 8534   55:17 mins


Avi Avital’s latest release looks back over 300 years of mandolin music, starting with Vivaldi’s enchanting Double Mandolin Concerto (partnered by Alon Sariel), which is brought sparklingly to life, with the Venice Baroque Orchestra providing deftly engaging accompaniment. Staying in the Baroque period, Domenico Scarlatti’s D minor Keyboard Sonata K.89 belongs to a handful of works that modern scholarship suggests may have been conceived originally for the mandolin – after hearing Avital’s engagingly dynamic performance, one is certainly inclined to agree.

Beethoven’s Adagio ma non troppoWoO 43.2 is one of four delightful pieces he composed for the singer/mandolinist Countess Josephine of Clary-Aldringen, a society ‘looker’ who seems to have well and truly caught the composer’s eye.

Moving forward in time to the last century, Hans Werner Henze’s Carillon, Récitatif, Masque is a mini-masterpiece of bracingly inventive pasticherie, and although Paul Ben-Haim’s Sonata a Tre for mandolin, guitar and harpsichord possesses a similar nostalgic stylistic trajectory, it is closer to the neo-Baroque re-imaginings of Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas brasileiras.

Bringing us virtually bang up to date is David Bruce’s Death is a Friend of Mine, a dazzling mélange of dancing inspiration climaxing in a Rodrigo-like finale, and Giovanni Sollima’s solo mandolin Prelude, an effervescent three-and-a-half minuter, featuring an exhilarating tarantella.


Julian Haylock