The intention of I Musici’s latest production is to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. The musical journey starts with a tribute to Francesco Geminiani, outstanding exponent together with Locatelli and Somis from Corelli’s school. The Concerto Grosso No. 12 “La Follia” from the sonata op. 5 no. 12 by Arcangelo Corelli for strings and harpsichord (a theme and variations), reminds us of the brightness of an exciting virtuosity that he took abroad, especially to London. There the Italian master became famous as he fed the tradition of great violinists gifted with capabilities and techniques of the time. We can’t however, leave out Corelli, foremost protagonist of the sonata, concerto and the baroque violin. His collections of instrumental music from 1681 came into their own as compositions of value in the following century, a period that imposed the Italian musical theatre tradition not only throughout Europe but beyond. Pergolesi, whose surname was originally Draghi, descendant from the family Pergola, thus “Pergolesi”, was deeply attached to Naples.
He studied at the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesu’ Cristo, where his violin teacher was first Domenico de Matteis then Durante. One may call all his works Neapolitan. It isn’t by chance that his compositions are fundamentally connected to the musical theatre, particularly the buffa (comic) form, which Pergolesi mastered - an example being the significant and very noted La Serva padrona and, altogether different, the Stabat Mater. It also isn’t coincidental that the best contributions of the period were from musicians and composers who had made a study of the violin, the instrument which best imitated the human voice, that for everyone was the supreme ideal. I Musici in their faithful way, have chosen to pay homage to the celebrated composer by presenting rarely played compositions, therefore not much known on the concert platform. The Concerto per violino, archi e basso continuo in B flat major features in the Pergolesi catalogue as one of the few instrumental works (in fact there are only five) but which is undoubtedly attributed to him. From the outset we are immediately introduced to music typical of the baroque sound which however, reveals a lyrical character of the instrument that gives a foretaste of the development of Italian instrumental music that was later to predominate. A discussion of the solo concerto of the 18th century, inevitably brings to mind Antonio Vivaldi, recognisable for his use of formal and stylistic characteristics starting with the classical structure in three movements. He was a giant in his time by the abundance of his writing (he wrote 480 concertos alone), as well as by representing the Venetian school which was famous throughout the world. Contrary to Pergolesi, Vivaldi’s compositions are more articulate and centred mostly around the instrumental form.
I Musici selected the Concerto per due violoncelli, archi e continuo RV 531 in G minor and the Concerto per violino, archi e continuo “Grosso Mogul” RV 208 in D major. The second, as noted, struck Bach especially because of the violin’s cadenza and it should have indicated ‘India’ in the title as was customary at that time. Mogul was the great Islamic dynasty that dominated India from the 3rd century to the beginning of the 18th and obviously fired the imagination. Concerts and Follies in G. B. Pergolesi’s time.