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Paganini • Tartini • Vivaldi: Concertos, etc

Nils Mönkemeyer (viola), Massimiliano Toni (harpsichord); L’arte del mondo/Werner Ehrhardt (Sony Classical)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Paganini • Tartini • Vivaldi
Paganini: Sonata for gran viola and orchestra, MS 70; Tartini: 38 Variations on Gavotte from Corelli’s, Op. 5/10; Vivaldi: Bassoon Concerto in G minor, RV495; Cello Concerto in G minor, RV416 etc. Plus works by Rolla and Sciarrino
Nils Mönkemeyer (viola), Massimiliano Toni (harpsichord); L’arte del mondo/Werner Ehrhardt
Sony Classical 19439730032   56:58 mins

Delalande to Sciarrino via an inevitably dark-hued transcription of Bach’s D minor Harpsichord Concerto BWV 1052, Nils Mönkemeyer is a violist with a breadth of repertoire unafraid to trespass into uninvited territory. His Barroco español disc reimagined keyboard sonatas by Soler and Scarlatti as well as works by Brunetti and Nebra; and this latest creative entanglement with the Baroque and beyond bestrides Italy with reworkings of concertos by Vivaldi (one originally for bassoon, the other for cello) alongside a clutch of somewhat inconsequential variations by Tartini hommaging Corelli; Paganini’s orchestrally accompanied ‘Grand Sonata’ Op. 35; and a couple of bonnes bouches by Paganini’s teacher Alessandro Rolla (both of them premiere recordings).

L’arte del mondo directed by Werner Ehrhardt prove spirited companions, boasting thoughtfully elaborated continuo and a gutsy glee when responding to the rumbustious, sometimes edgy heft Mönkemeyer husbands for Vivaldi’s feistiest fast movements. Though Mönkemeyer’s playing has an evident sense of period performance practice, he’s not hidebound by the imperatives of the time-honoured treatises. He revels in Paganini’s honeyed lyricism, and brings a finely-honed intensity to interpolated cadenzas as multifarious as the turbo-charged one from Vivaldi’s Il Grosso Mogul (the composer’s own), and Sciarrino’s Di Vola – a tense, brightly-lit, provocative interlude between the ‘Cantabile’ and ‘Theme with Variations’ of the Paganini Sonata. Living dangerously doesn’t always make for irreproachable intonation; the recorded sound sometimes unsettles, but Mönkemeyer’s virtuosity is never vacuous and his individuality compels.

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Paul Riley