Locatelli: L ‘arte del Violino, Op. 3

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COMPOSERS: Locatelli
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: L ‘arte del Violino, Op. 3
PERFORMER: Elizabeth Wallfisch (violin)Raglan Baroque Players/Nicholas Kraemer
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66721/3 DDD
Pietro Locatelli, one of the Baroque era’s most flamboyant virtuosi, would I only play his violin standing up and refused to remove his coat even when performing for two or three hours. A contemporary reported that he played ‘like a devil’, his technical facility engendering speeds and intensity that seemed truly demonic at times.

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Locatelli trained in Rome (possibly with Corelli) then later settled in Amsterdam, where L ‘arte del Violinovras published in 1733. At the time this set of 12 three-movement concertos extended the technical language of the violin to the limit, particularly in the lengthy solo Capriccios that he placed in each concerto. Here the violinist has to execute a host of difficult techniques — trills, double-stopping, slurs — often at high speed.

These displays of extreme virtuosity can be tremendously exciting, though they do tend to disrupt the flow of the concertos, which are otherwise charming but rather less dramatic affairs.

Elizabeth Wallfisch, as the violin soloist, meets Locatelli’s formidable challenges with splendid brio. Helped by sensitive support from the period-instrument Raglan Baroque Players, she imparts a lilting gaiety to the music and negotiates the Capriccios with breathtaking finesse.

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All lovers of Baroque violin will want this release, but its cache of bright, lively music and brilliant playing deserves the widest audience. Graham Lock