L’Arte del Violino | Virtuoso violin sonatas and trio sonatas
Pietro Locatelli (1695–1764)
Sonata in G major Op. 5, No. 1
Andante, Largo-Andante, Allegro, Vivace
Francesco Antonio Bonporti (1672–1749)
Invenzione in G minor Op. 10, No. 4
Largo, Balletto-Allegro, Aria-Adagio, Corrente-Presto.
Francesco Maria Veracini (1690–1768)
Sonata in G minor No. 2
Largo, Allegro, Largo, Allegro
Giuseppe Tartini (1692–1770)
Sonata in G minor „Didone abbandonata“ Op. 1, No. 10
Affettuoso, Presto, Allegro
Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741)
Sonata in D major, RV 84
Allegro, Andante, Allegro
Lenka TORGERSEN | Baroque violin
Jana SEMERÁDOVÁ | flauto traverso
Hana FLEKOVÁ | Baroque cello
Marek ČERMÁK | harpsichord
Jan KREJČA | theorbo
10. 11. 2020, Rytířský sál Velkopřevorského paláce, Prague
Audiovisual recording of the concert (without the audience).
Sound engineering and sound direction | Filip BENEŠ
Camera and video direction | Tokpa KORLO
If we like, we can think of it as an imaginary battle of the titans, in which outstanding violinists and composers, as well as unique, often extravagant and eccentric artistic personalities, will showcase their art. What kind of people were Pietro Locatelli, Antonio Vivaldi, Giuseppe Tartini, Francesco Antonio Bonporti and Francesco Maria Veracini? How does their music speak to us? Can we read from the scores how the personalities of the composers influenced the content? Join us on this exciting and interesting journey into the heart of the artistic personalities of the great violinists of the Baroque era!
The programme opens with Pietro Antonio Locatelli’s Sonata in G major, Op. 5, No. 1 for flute, violin and basso continuo. This is a graceful and elegant sonata, an excellent example of the so-called galant style. Pietro Locatelli spent his youth in Italy, but he soon (as a renowned virtuoso) embarked on a concert tour of Europe, performing at major aristocratic and royal courts. In his works, he pushed the technical difficulty of violin playing to the very limits of the Baroque instrument and is often referred to as the Baroque Paganini. Several accounts of his extravagant and arrogant nature have survived. When he performed at a concert in Potsdam at the court of the King of Prussia, dressed in a lavish, diamond-encrusted jacket, he was very indignant that the local audience preferred the playing of the local virtuoso Johann Gottlieb Graun. In Amsterdam, where he eventually settled and worked for the rest of his life, he gave concerts only for select aristocratic circles, and he could not tolerate the presence of colleagues and other professional musicians. He gave lessons exclusively to amateurs so that no one could copy his art.
Another protagonist of tonight’s performance is Francesco Antonio Bonporti. From his works we will hear Invention in G minor, No. 4 from Op. 10 for violin and basso continuo. Bonporti belongs to the generation of pupils of the great violinist Arcangelo Corelli, who fundamentally influenced violin and instrumental music of the High Baroque. Bonporti’s work is clearly influenced by Corelli’s legacy, but it is also fresh, original and innovative in form. With his Inventions, Bonporti departs from the established sonata form that is most common in Baroque chamber instrumental compositions. Inventions, or ideas, are multi-movement pieces in which shorter movements build on one other; unusual movement titles, such as Baletto, Bizzaria, Recitativo, etc., often appear in them. Bonporti plays with the virtuoso language of violin literature with great elegance and sophistication, experimenting within a limited framework with different emotions, musical motifs and interesting harmonies. It was Bonporti’s Op. 10 that inspired Johann Sebastian Bach to compose his Inventions for Harpsichord.
Arguably the greatest eccentric and oddball on today’s programme is Francesco Maria Veracini. Born in Florence, this violin wizard lived a life of dramatic ups and downs because of his arrogance and hauteur, but also because of his genius and talent. He achieved great recognition, but he also experienced severe failure and humiliation. If anyone can be described as a tormented artist, it is Veracini. Today, we will hear his Sonata in D minor for flute and basso continuo from a collection of sonatas he dedicated to Prince Friedrich Augustus, son of the Elector of Saxony, who invited Veracini to his court in Dresden during his tour of Italy. It is said that when Giuseppe Tartini heard Veracini play in concert in Venice, he was completely enchanted by his playing. Ashamed of his own imperfections, Tartini decided to go to Ancona to devote himself entirely, undisturbed, to study and self-improvement. However, in Dresden, Veracini did not impress his colleagues nearly as much. The Elector’s Court Orchestra, under the direction of Georg Pisendel, another violin genius, was one of the finest orchestras in Europe at the time and its players were among the finest virtuosos. The arrogant and big-headed Veracini quickly turned the whole orchestra against him, and after a conflict with Pisendel and Heinichen, he allegedly threw himself out of a window. He broke his leg in two places and limped until his death. Veracini’s position became untenable and he had to leave Dresden. He spent some relatively prosperous years in London but his operatic work did not meet with great success there. Considered a great eccentric, he earned the nickname capo pazzo (madman) and returned to his native Florence at the end of his life. On his way home, he miraculously survived a shipwreck in which he lost several of his precious instruments. After his return, he devoted himself mainly to conducting and rarely performed as a violinist.
Giuseppe Tartini is undoubtedly one of those composers who fundamentally influenced the development of violin playing, both technically and, let’s say, in terms of musical idiom. This native of Pirana, Slovenia, which was part of the Republic of Venice in the 18th century, left an indelible mark on violin literature. Already during his lifetime, he was awarded the title “Maestro delle Nazioni” – teacher of nations. It was an honour for any violinist of the 18th century to study with Tartini or at least to hear him in concert. While there are a number of incidents that demonstrate the extravagance, sometimes even arrogance, of Locatelli and Veracini, we would look in vain for similar stories about Tartini. The only “excess” in Tartini’s life was that, as a young man, he fell in love with a woman whom he later married against his family’s wishes. He had to flee from Padua to Assisi – and it was here that he began to devote himself intensively to the violin. After building a reputation as a violin virtuoso, he could finally publicly acknowledge his wife and return to Padua. They remained together for the rest of their lives... After a brief episode between 1723 and 1726, which Tartini spent here in Prague to attend the coronation of Charles VI and later work in Count Kinski’s orchestra, he returned again to Padua. He worked as a violinist, composer, theorist and teacher until his death. Although Tartini’s music is equal to the works of Locatelli and Veracini in terms of technical difficulty, it has added value especially in its depth of content and emotion. Tartini’s virtuosity is never shallow or an end in itself; rhetoric and the most effective musical rendering of emotion were always very important to him. A number of sonatas were composed to a specific text or refrain, which is written under the melody and which determines the phrasing and emotion of the composition. A wonderful example of Tartini’s rhetorically and content-rich composition is his Sonata Op. 1, No. 10, entitled “Didone Abbandonata”. This is not a piece of program music in the strict sense of the word, rather it is a musical rendering of the various forms and stages of Dido’s despair at Aeneas’ departure. While the first movement is conceived more in the vein of the proud character of the Queen of Carthage, who is only beginning to realise her despair and abandonment, the second movement (Presto) gives voice to her anger, rage and lament. The final Allegro is a gradual acceptance of fate and resignation.
Antonio Vivaldi needs no introduction; from today’s point of view he could be called a kind of Baroque superstar and icon. But only in the best sense of the word! Vivaldi can only be spoken of in superlatives, whether we are talking about the composer, the violinist, the teacher or the man. We can be all the more pleased that he at least partly connected his musical legacy with the orchestra of Count Morzin and his musicians and became a teacher of our composer František Jiránek. Today’s Baroque banquet will end with the three-movement Sonata in D major RV 84, which is part of the “Concerti da Camera” cycle and is one of the gems from the pen of Antonio Vivaldi for several solo instruments.