Locatelli: 12 Concerti Grossi, Op. 1

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COMPOSERS: Locatelli
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: 12 Concerti Grossi, Op. 1
PERFORMER: Raglan Baroque Players/Elizabeth Wallfisch, Nicholas Kraemer
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66981/2 DDD
Locatelli’s Op. 3 violin concertos, L’arte del violino, were famous chiefly for their fiendishly tricky caprices for solo violin. Such virtuoso fireworks are largely absent from this youthful set of concerti grossi and Peter Holman, in his booklet notes, warns that listeners may be ‘surprised and perhaps initially disappointed by Op. 1’. I have to admit I remain a little disappointed. It’s not only the Locatelli bravura I miss; where, for example, is the sensuous delicacy of his Op. 2 flute sonatas, the flowing invention of his Op. 6 violin sonatas? There are too few glimpses of such genius here.

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These 12 concerti grossi were first published in 1721, when Locatelli was just 26. A tribute to Corelli, the work is modelled on the latter’s celebrated Op. 6, with each concerto divided into several brief, contrasting sections. But whereas Corelli was able to knit this diversity into an attractive whole, Locatelli’s music is frustratingly erratic, with longueurs lurking amidst its fleeting charms.

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The Raglan Baroque Players provide lively, sensitive performances, though I suspect a more inspired advocacy is required. Europa Galante, on their recent Locatelli release (from the Opus 111 label), did bring an extra touch of élan to the music, but that disc included only three of the Op. 1 concertos. Graham Lock