LOCATELLI: Concerti Grossi Op.1 (2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10) – Freiburger Barockorchester/ Gottfried von der Goltz, conductor –Harmonia mundi

by | May 24, 2007 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

LOCATELLI: Concerti Grossi Op.1 (2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10) – Freiburger Barockorchester/ Gottfried von der Goltz, conductor –Harmonia mundi HMC 901889, 61:03 ****:

Pietro Antonio Locatelli (1695-1764) lived during the high baroque period of Italian music. A traditionalist in matters of form (he was indebted to Corelli for instance), in other ways he sought to expand the horizons of contemporary music and abilities by stretching the art of violin playing almost to a breaking point. Wicked arpeggios, chord stops, extremely high playing, and excruciatingly difficult leaps in intervals (coupled with some blazing tempos) allowed only the most accomplished players to attempt his music. This sort of pedigree would become more common a hundred years hence, but in baroque music it was almost seen as heresy, bordering on virtuosity for its own sake.

But that charge won’t stick, especially when you actually listen to the music and hear how integrated and holistic Locatelli’s approach is. He seems to do nothing for sham or shabby effect only; everything that smacks of difficulty also has a parallel meaning intrinsic to the music at hand. Like Bach, whose music strains the limits of every musician, one feels that every note is significant.

But also like Bach, who brought the complex harmonies of his era to the breaking point, so also Locatelli, glorying in intricate chromatic passages of great length and thematic density. His fugues are longer than the norm, and presented more often. His textures, added to by the viola parts he often included, are much more opaque, and he did not hesitate to indulge in five-part writing. Hearing a Locatelli concerto is a heavier experience than putting on Corelli; for while the melodic gift is the same (as one would expect from an Italian composer), his undercurrents are often from the world of the German baroque (he stayed for over a year in Berlin), and you do not perceive the same lightness of being that you might when hearing Vivaldi. He is a serious composer, perhaps exacerbated by the fact that he (amazingly) wrote no choral music at all, only instrumental, thereby demanding a more abstract viewpoint from his audience.

This CD features six of the twelve concertos from his first published set, at Amsterdam in 1721. Based on the spirited and comprehensive performances of the Freiburger Barockorchester, one can only hope that a volume two with the remaining works will be forthcoming. The 18 members play with a great understanding of the difficulties and rewards of this music, unified in ensemble and stylistically of one mind. This is a very enjoyable CD that will delight all baroque enthusiasts and no doubt many more than that.

— Steven Ritter

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