Locatelli: L’arte del violino, Op. 3

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COMPOSERS: Locatelli
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: L’arte del violino, Op. 3
PERFORMER: Mariana Sirbu (violin); I Musici
CATALOGUE NO: 446 506-2
Now that Vivaldi is being taken seriously for more than just the infamous Four Seasons, it’s good that record companies are also paying attention to some of his contemporaries. Of these, the violinist and composer Pietro Locatelli (1695-1764) is among the most interesting: his set of 12 violin concertos, Op. 3 (published in 1733) is a formidable compendium of the very latest in virtuoso technique. Each is based on the three-movement, fast-slow-fast plan made popular by Vivaldi, but the outer movements also incorporate the substantial capricii – lengthy, written-out cadenzas which extended the technical possibilities of the violin to an extent equalled only by Paganini nearly a century later.

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Stylistically, these new performances by Mariana Sirbu are far more ‘historically aware’ than I Musici’s traditional approach to music of this period. Indeed, the solo playing is usually sweet-toned, and the accompaniments (from just 11 musicians, according to the photo in Philips’s rather unsatisfactory booklet), though lacking much in dynamic contrast and phrasing, are generally light and buoyant.

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Nevertheless, if you find modern instruments and vibrato hard to take in this repertoire, Elizabeth Wallfisch’s performances on Hyperion might be a better bet. Stephen Maddock