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Durante: Concerti per Archi

Marcello Scandelli (cello); Accademia dell’Annunciata/Riccardo Doni (Arcana)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Concerti per Archi; plus works by Fiorenza and Porpora
Marcello Scandelli (cello); Accademia dell’Annunciata/Riccardo Doni
Arcana A540   116:41 mins (2 discs)


Jean-Jacques Rousseau pronounced the Neapolitan composer Francesco Durante (1684-1755) the ‘greatest harmonist in Italy, that is to say in the world,’ and certainly this album reveals a composer of thrilling versatility and inventiveness. His Concerti a quattro, written around 1730-40, bring together the grace and sobriety of the old-style Corellian concerto with the sizzling virtuosity of the modish Vivaldian model.

Among the highlights is the A major Concerto ‘La Pazzia’ (Madness), whose fluctuating tempos and vacillating moods turn from ruminative to frenzied, and whose haunting slow movement has all the lyricism of a Neapolitan opera aria. Also lovely is the G minor Second Concerto; you can hear Durante’s influence on Pergolesi in the galant melody of the Largo affettuoso. To the breezy Ninth concerto, Durante adds some unnerving dissonances, disquieting the felicitous key of B flat. Indeed, his style is never merely frothy: he adds weight to the lyrical and virtuosic Italian style with some rigorous contrapuntal writing. Fleshing out the album and setting Durante in context are two works by his Neapolitan contemporaries: a pathos-laden Sinfonia by Nicola Fiorenza and a recently discovered cello concerto by Nicola Porpora.

The Accademia dell’Annunciata are passionate advocates of these shadowy works. Their sound is warm and resonant yet musical textures remain transparent; ensemble and intonation are generally well controlled. Director-harpsichordist Riccardo Doni coaxes rhetorical articulation and dramatic contrasts of colour and dynamic, throwing the musical antitheses into high relief. Above all, the players relish the propulsive rhythms that lend these works their infectious energy.


Kate Bolton-Porciatti