Amongst a plethora of musical styles and genres extant during the mid-18th century, the music of Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770) finds a special place. Despite a quintessential expressive style of performance and embellishment, he was to become and remain influential across the known musical world, and his legacy was essential to violin playing for at least the next century.
Tartini’s obscure writings about Nature and music reveal a close relationship to widespread ideas of a time that was to become known as The Age of Reason. However, these came with a twist: his 135 violin concertos and 200 sonatas, of which many are rarely performed today, still appear enigmatic – impalpable and mysterious. The sonorous Hardanger fiddle, an ideal instrument for imitating the traditional Italian bagpipes, appears in this recording as a tribute to the composer’s frequent use of traditional folk music motifs.
Total time: 00:51:13
|Original Recording Format|
Horus, Merging Technologies
Pyramix, Merging Technologies
Jar Church, Norway in June 2014
|Recording Type & Bit Rate||
|Release Date||April 4, 2019|
The Vinyl Anachronist
On the 2L Recordings’ website, it’s mentioned that Tartini’s music is rarely performed today — it’s considered somewhat “enigmatic — impalpable and mysterious.” I agree wholeheartedly, which is why I responded so favorably to this album.
Playing it for the first time, I was mesmerized by this music and the way it seemed to expand on more common baroque themes. But instead of offering a more direct, streamlined version of these ornate musical motifs that were preferred by his contemporaries, Tartini ventured further away from the mainstream with strange and challenging tangents that will remind you of compositions created 100 to 150 years later.
Part of the reason the three Tartini pieces on this disc are so intriguing is the choice of instrumentation, with Sigurd Imsen using a baroque violin and Hardanger fiddle (which has an open, woody and resonant sound compared to conventional violins), Tormod Dalen playing a baroque cello and Hans Knut Sveen sitting at the cembalo (a German harpsichord). Normally a more conventional trio would approach this music in a more straightforward manner, but these rarer instruments have such a delightfully sonorous sound that they can venture further away from Tartini’s beautiful melodies and extract an unusually exotic result. In addition, the violin features a scordatura tuning, which means that it’s purposely altered to include “non-conventional” notes that combine the familiar with the experimental.
With all these novel and fascinating elements in place, Tartini becomes so much more than a well-recorded program of chamber music. I finally got around to reading up on Tartini, and it turns out he’s not held in the same high regard as fellow composers such as Handel and Hayden and, of course, Mozart. Mr. Tartini was known for his writings on nature as much, if not more than he was known for his music. That seems to suggest two things — either that means more scholarly writers than I will criticize me for enjoying this music so much, or that the 2L magic has elevated this album into something special. I’m leaning toward the later since I get goosebumps whenever I play it.
Of all the 2L albums I’ve been reviewing, this one is my favorite for pure musical enjoyment. Highly recommended.
We usually mention the proverbial prolificacy of an Antonio Vivaldi in the baroque context. But we often forget how another great composer of the time, Giuseppe Tartini, was not less, given that despite a life to say the least adventurous it was able to compose at least two hundred sonatas and over 135 concerts for violin, an instrument of which he was a great virtuoso.
In fact, as the story tells us, we risked losing a great violinist to his adventures as a fearless sword master, given that until just under twenty years Tartini became a European reputation as a first-rate swordsman, as well as endowed with a violent and reckless temperament. But fortunately, a conflicted marriage and the inevitable escape, disguised as a pilgrim, from Padua to Rome, allowed the young Tartini to put his head in order and put his fingers back on the violin, on which he had already dabbled before. The rest is known: Tartini became a first-rate violin star, able not only to enchant his contemporaries with his technique, also sanctioned by some theoretical treatises, but also to leave a conspicuous number of compositions, including the very famous sonatas “Didone abandoned “and, above all, the” Trillo del Diavolo “. This last piece is part, with the Sonata in F major, op. 1 n. 12 and the Pastorale in A major, op. 1 n. 13, of the disc in question, performed by a trio of highly respected performers who, in an exquisitely philological sense, adopt an executive aspect that may perhaps surprise those who know these pieces, starting with the famous “Trillo”, through more melodic versions and structurally appealing. On the contrary, Imsen, Dalen, and Sveen prefer to deal with these pages with greater timbral reflection, carefully weighing the balances that can be obtained between the three instruments, while the violin avoids putting into practice the age-old practice of over-embellishing and embellishing one’s own part. The portentous quality of this recording deserves a separate discussion, which makes this album a must for all those who belong to the “hard and pure” category of audiophiles.
Another totally unique hi-res recording from Norway.
No doubt gearing up for the 250th birthday celebrations in 2020, the flood of outstanding and important Giuseppe Tartini releases continues with this eerie, fantastical recording of the Devil’s Sonata surrounded by two endearing Sonatas from Op. 1; the latter, which is a charming Pastorale in the charming key of A major, is played on a Norwegian Hardanger folk fiddle with its scordatura tuning suggesting country diversions and its drone strings imitating bagpipes.
Not surprisingly, it’s just another curiously essential release on the Norwegian 2L audiophile label, lighting up candles for Tartini in advance with a recording for the ages haunted by musicological ghosts. Tartini would have loved it.
This release is, in fact, an audiophile delight for a number of niche audiences including lovers of early and Baroque music, Scandinavian folk music and fiddle music generally, fabled acoustic venues, and original instrument lovers, just to name a few.
The Baroque violin used in this recording, for example, was built by the Norwegian luthier Jacob von der Lippe and is a copy of Tartini’s own instrument built by Stradivarius for Tartini in 1715, known as the “Lipinski Strad” (and recently the subject of a celebrated kidnapping). However, as Sigurd Imsen explains in his excellent, deeply reflective liner notes, the original has been essentially rebuilt over the centuries into a modern violin, whereas von der Lippe’s copy has been reconstructed as an authentic Baroque violin based on the best scholarly research, tempered by the feedback from the actual living violinist for whom it was intended.
The holographically natural recording was made in the large bare space of a small village church near Oslo, the kind of venue 2L prefers due in part to the absence of close reflecting walls, which maximizes their flexibility in working with the microphone and the musicians.
The Absolute Sound
The Italian violinist and composer Giuseppe Tartini absorbed the ideals of the Enlightenment, concluding that music was a manifestation of the natural order. Sigurd Imsen’s program of three Tartini chamber works — the Sonata in F Major, Op. 1, No. 12; The Devil’s Sonata (also known as The Devil’s Trill); and the Pastorale in A Major, Op. 1, No. 13 — is titled “Secondo natura,” meaning elemental. Indeed, Imsen’s playing is a force of nature, boldly impassioned and floridly ornamented. He demonstrates that a rigorously authentic approach to older music need not leave virtuosity out of the picture. Imsen plays a copy of Tartini’s Stradivarius violin — the original is still in use but has been modernized. The sound is more concentrated and less brilliant than we’re used to; that Imsen applies significantly more bow pressure is an important factor as well. For the Pastorale, the soloist employs a Hardanger fiddle, a traditional Norwegian instrument that’s smaller and lighter than a modern violin, with sympathetic strings that are caused to resonate when the main four are activated. Especially in DSD Surround Sound, 2L’s usual recording philosophy is “immersive,” but here, Imsen and his able accompanists (on baroque cello and harpsichord) are palpably present in one’s listening space.
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