Saturday 23 August 2014

Another terrific disc from La Serenissima who provide so much energy, precision and vibrancy in a concert of works by Vivaldi, Pisendel, Montanari and Albinoni from Avie

The British early music ensemble La Serenissima was founded in 1994 by violinist Adrian Chandler and takes its name from La Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia (The Most Serene Republic of Venice) The ensemble specializes in the music of Venetian Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi and his contemporaries.

Since the release of their first recording for Avie Records in 2003, La Serenissima has received two Gramophone Award nominations, for Volumes 1 & 2 of The Rise of the Northern Italian Violin Concerto: 1690-1740 and a Gramophone Award for Best Baroque Instrumental CD in 2010 for Vivaldi: The French Connection. The follow up CD, Vivaldi: The French Connection 2 was nominated for a Gramophone award in 2012.

I greeted their dazzling Vivaldi release, A Tale of Two Seasons, in August 2013, with enthusiasm. 

Their debut release for Avie, entitled Per Monsieur Pisendel, featured works by Johann Georg Pisendel, Tomaso Albinoni and a number of the Suonata à Solo facto per Monsieur Pisendel by Vivaldi.

La Serenissima’s latest release from Avie Records goes back to that original disc and is entitled Per Monsieur Pisendel 2 and features more of the Suonata à Solo facto dedicated to Pisendel, a virtuoso violinist as well as composer, together with works by Antonio Montanari, Tomaso Albinoni and Pisendel.  


The instrumentalists on this recording are Adrian Chandler (violin), Gareth Deats (cello), Thomas Dunford (theorbo), Robert Howarth (harpsichord and organ).

Antonio Vivaldi’s (1678–1741) Suonata à Solo facto per Monsieur Pisendel in A, RV 29 was one of a number inscribed to his pupil, Johann Georg Pisendel. La Serenissima create some lovely textures in the Andante that is taken at a leisurely pace allowing the music to unfold beautifully with a subtle rhythmic lilt. This ensemble manages a fine clarity of texture in the fast and furious Allegro, with terrific ensemble. The Largo has a typically beautiful Vivaldian melody woven between the instruments to lovely effect. The little Presto is full of energy and joy with a terrific rhythmic bounce.

Johann Georg Pisendel’s (1687-1755) Sonata for Violin and Continuo in C minor opens with a melancholy Adagio prolubite that precedes a hesitating Andante as though forming a prelude to the remaining movements. The Allegro brings some attractive twists and turns as the melody moves forward, full of invention and finely played by La Serenissima with some pithy, incisive playing. There is a beautifully relaxed Largo, sensitively played, that gently sways in its forward motion before the Allegro, a terrific movement, again full of fine invention with this ensemble providing some extremely fine playing, attending to every nuance and detail with superb textures in some of the more intense chords.

This is a particularly fine and attractive sonata.

Pisendel also studied with Antonio Montanari (1676 – 1737) in Rome and it is his Sonata for violin and continuo in D Minor that follows. It has a sweet sounding Adagio where Montanari weaves some particularly fine textures, beautifully revealed by La Serenissima. The robust Allegro has some powerfully produced textures from these players. The second Adagio brings a lovely melody with some fine string decorations beautifully played by Adrian Chandler. Finally there is a Giga senza basso (without basso continuo), with a rhythmic dancing, solo violin melody that is most attractive and finely played by Adrian Chandler.

Tomaso Albinoni (1671 – 1751) needs no introduction except to say that he also dedicated a sonata to Pisendel (included on Volume I of Per Monsieur Pisendel AV0018) His Sonata for violin and continuo in B flat brings a lively flowing Allemande: Larghetto, full of little rhythmic details, with terrific playing from  La Serenissima. The Corrente: Allegro has a lovely spring to its rhythm, drawing the music forward and allowing these players to weave some terrific sounds. The light and breezy Gavotta: Allegro shows La Serenissima providing more fine transparency of textures, every instrument sounding through. The Sarabanda: Allegro has a more gentle dancing rhythm in this short concluding movement.

The other work by Johann Georg Pisendel is his Sonata for Violin in A Minor where, in the opening Grave, Adrian Chandler provides some fine flourishes as he weaves the music in this solo sonata. The Allegro brings more fine invention with Chandler providing some superb playing in the varying rhythms and changing dynamics. There are even more intricate rhythms and textural challenges in the Giga – Variazione, the longest movement of this sonata superbly realised by Chandler.

This is a terrific sonata that finds Chandler on great form.

Finely we return to Antonio Vivaldi and another sonata dedicated to Pisendel, his Suonata à Solo facto per Monsieur Pisendel in F, RV 19. The Andante brings a lovely contrast as the ensemble returns with such mellifluous textures in this gentle movement, pointed up by lovely instrumental details. There is a lively, rhythmic Giga, full of propulsion and fine textures with some terrific, robust playing from La Serenissima. After a lovely, leisurely Largo, these players provide fine detail in the intricate rhythms of the Allegro. When the final Allegro con Variazione arrives it has a leisurely opening before the Allegro proper appears and runs through a series of fine variations with terrific playing, getting faster as it proceeds, to conclude this disc.

This is another terrific disc from La Serenissima who provide so much energy, precision and vibrancy in a concert of works that reveals the attractions of composers that aren’t normally given much exposure.

These fine instrumentalists receive an excellent recording from the Hospital of St Cross, Winchester, England. There are informative booklet notes from Adrian Chandler. Full details of the instruments used are given.

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