Il Labirinto Armonico: L’Arte del Violino, Op. 3 Nos 9, 11 & 12
Finnish Baroque Orchestra/Ilya Gringolts (violin)
BIS BIS-2445 (CD/SACD) 61:49 mins
Vivaldi’s younger contemporary, Pietro Locatelli, published five sets of concertos between 1721 and 1762. The debt to Corelli is clearly evident in the earliest of them, whereas in his Op. 3, L’Arte del Violino, Locatelli was eager, above all, to show off the technical and virtuoso pyrotechnics of the solo violin, the instrument of which he was an acknowledged and renowned master. This new release features three of the 12 concertos which comprise L’Arte del Violino. They are performed with apposite aplomb and necessary bravura by Ilya Gringolts who also directs the Finnish Baroque Orchestra.
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The music itself is remarkable most of all for its capriccios, contained in the first and last movements of each concerto. These unaccompanied, cadenza-like pieces push the soloist to the uppermost technical limits, requiring multiple stopping, trills and counterpoint, as for instance in the second Capriccio of Op. 3 No. 9. While these capriccios are uneven in quality, the listener can only wonder at their invention.
The most extended of the entire set belongs to the last movement of the 12th Concerto, challengingly subtitled Il Labirinto Armonico, Facilis aditus, difficilis exitus (The Harmonic Labyrinth, easy to enter, difficult to get out of). Gringolts is well up to the ordeal and may be forgiven for very occasional lapses of intonation.
The Finnish Baroque Orchestra plays stylishly, providing dependably sympathetic support. While to my ears the music lacks the invention and poetic allure of Vivaldi’s strongest concertos, the sheer audacity of Locatelli’s demonic solo writing is often compelling listening in itself.