Pergolesi, Durante, Leo

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COMPOSERS: Durante,Leo,Pergolesi
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Violin Concerto in B flat; Sonata in A; Sinfonia in F
PERFORMER: Elizabeth Wallfisch (violin); Raglan Baroque Players/Nicholas Kraemer
Eighteenth-century Naples is celebrated for its lively operatic tradition, but its four conservatories aimed in a more general way to prepare its artistically promising male youngsters for a successful career in music. Pergolesi and Leonardo Leo were both products of the Neapolitan conservatories, while Francesco Durante, the third composer featured on this disc, was affiliated to more than one of them during the first half of the century. Pergolesi’s instrumental pieces are few in number – he died at the age of 26 – but his Violin Concerto in B flat and Sinfonia for strings are full of expressive variety and allure. Elizabeth Wallfisch brings tonal warmth and intuitively graceful, lightly articulated gestures to the Concerto, whose lyrical slow movement breathes the air of the theatre. Musically speaking, though, it is the three concertos by Durante – he alone among the composers represented here rejected the stage in favour of sacred vocal forms – which are of the greatest interest. They are skilfully crafted and sometimes, as in the Concerto La Pazzia (Folly), make arresting departures from mainstream trends. This work, with its sensitive empfindsamer Stil leanings, is the strongest of the three chosen here and is performed in a radiant and sympathetic acoustic with spirit and affection by Nicholas Kraemer and his excellent Raglan Baroque Players. Nicholas Anderson