Italia

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COMPOSERS: Tartini,Veracini,Vivaldi
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Violin Concertos by Vivaldi and Tartini; plus Veracini: Largo from Sonata No. 6 in A
PERFORMER: Nicola Benedetti (violin); Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Christian Curnyn
CATALOGUE NO: 476 4342

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You’ll find neither a whisper of Winter nor a suspicion of Spring in Nicola Benedetti’s first CD foray into the Baroque. But in a programme anchored by Vivaldi, she hasn’t resisted the Four Seasons entirely, turning to the thunderclaps of Summer. And if it seems surprising to slice up the Four Seasons like a Quattro stagioni pizza, Benedetti also purloins a couple of arias, ecclesiastical and operatic, to provide a ‘lyrical contrast’.

Still, Italia isn’t meant to be a scholarly exegesis on ‘the rise of the North Italian Violin Concerto’ in the footsteps of La Serenissima’s survey; it’s a lively celebration of Benedetti’s Italian roots, shot through with some laser-sharp pyrotechnics, and brave work-in-progress as she squares up to period style with a modern instrument. She might retain metal strings on her 1714 Stradivarius, but she has borrowed a Baroque bow from her ‘mentor’ Rachel Podger.

Certainly Vivaldi’s Grosso Mogul Concerto discloses a mogul with fire in its belly. Allegros bowl along as Benedetti produces an incandescent brightness. In the recitative slow movement, though, she is more inclined to declaim than soliloquise. Similarly, it’s the virtuosity of Tartini’s Devil’s Trill Sonata that holds the ear. By comparison, the first movement of Tartini’s A minor Concerto seems unsure of itself, and overall the piece comes across as agreeable without ever quite engaging the imagination.

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Like someone who has taken elocution lessons but drops the odd ‘h’, Benedetti’s ‘Baroque’ occasionally sounds like ‘Kreisler with attitude’; the accent might not always be pitch-perfect, but for sheer flair: Viva Italia! Paul Riley