Johannes Pramsohler and Ensemble Diderot perform Montanari

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COMPOSERS: Antonio Maria Montanari
LABELS: Audax Records
ALBUM TITLE: Montanari
WORKS: Violin Concertos, Op. 1 Nos 1, 5-8; Violin Concerto in C (Dresden)
PERFORMER: Johannes Pramsohler (violin); Ensemble Diderot
CATALOGUE NO: Audax Records ADX 13704

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Featuring a handful of world premiere recordings, this disc unveils the music of one of the great Italian Baroque violinists: Antonio Maria Montanari (1676-1737). Despite his glittering career in both papal and noble circles in Rome, not to mention his numerous collaborations with Handel and Corelli, Montanari is barely remembered today outside dusty music history books, yet these concertos reveal a vivacious and inventive composer who could certainly hold a candle to his more famous contemporaries. Indeed, these flexibly-scored works bridge the stylistic gap between Corelli and Vivaldi, melding Roman grace and architecture with Venetian fireworks.  Montanari’s writing for strings is effortlessly idiomatic: embroidered, aria-like melodies and quixotic solo reflections give way to sinuous fugues and spirited dances. Textures are harmonically and contrapuntally rich, yet never clogged.

Violinist and director Johannes Pramsohler leads the Ensemble Diderot in performances of terrific flair and abandon. Pramsohler’s rigorous technique makes light weight of Montanari’s virtuosic writing, with its quick-fire flourishes, intricate high-wire figurations and tricky passages of multiple stopping. There are, too, moments of eloquent dialogue between Pramsohler and second violinist David Wish, notably in the First and Seventh concertos.

With single strings and a slender continuo group, ensemble is taut and the sound transparent, a generous acoustic adding warmth. Baroque scholar Michael Talbot’s informative booklet graces this significant new release. 

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Kate Bolton-Porciatti