Schubert himself was an able violinist, whose idiomatic writing for the instrument is charmingly evident in his violin and piano sonatas. Moreover, enhanced by sympathetic recording, Biondi and Tverskaya here play a modern copy of a 1740 violin, and a c1820 Graf fortepiano that vividly evoke this music’s fragrant atmosphere. Arresting spontaneity invigorated by Biondi’s stylish extempore ornamentation reveals a potent mix of youthful vigour, ardent passion and delicate poignancy. An essential disc for all Schubertians.
One tends to associate the virtuoso violin repertoire with the 19th century, but in their own way these five sonatas, written between 1714 and 1743, offer an equally dazzling display of speed, facility, bow control and tonal variety. No wonder: the composers were among the foremost violin virtuosos of their time, as well as tireless innovators of technique and style; several even wrote treatises on violin playing. The earliest, and least familiar, is Michele Mascitti, a Neapolitan who moved to Paris when he was 30. His "Psyché," the program's only piece in a major key, is a divertissement in ten short "tableaux" on the theme of Cupid and Psyche, with the violin and continuo as the two protagonists. Refined and elegant, varied in texture, expression and character, it ranges from tender love songs to slow and fast dances, including a wild Badinage. Veracini's Sonata Op. 1 No. 1, a dance suite with an unusually active cello part, opens with a slow Overture and ends with a Giga del Postiglione, in which the violin imitates a posthorn's call. The other three sonatas are basically dramatic and melancholy, highly ornamented, full of double stops, running passages and cadenzas. Locatelli's is distinguished by a very elaborate keyboard part and a lot of spiky syncopation in the finale. Geminiani makes the violin sound quite luscious, almost romantic; his rhythms and phrases are startlingly irregular. He shares the exploration of the high register with Tartini, whose Sonata displays his incomparable melodic gift and trademark obsession with trills. The performances are beyond praise. Biondi, one of the deservedly most renowned baroque violinists, plays with enormous brilliance, expressiveness, and endlessly varied articulation and nuance; there is a sense of spontaneous exhilaration in his inventive, improvisatory ornamentation: he seems to be playing with the music and the violin. His partners, some manning several instruments, match him in every way.-Edith Eisler
With this exciting release, Fabio Biondi, the outstanding Europa Galante, and a cast led by stars Véronique Gens and Vivica Genaux strike a decisive blow for Alessandro Scarlatti's obscure Oratorio per la Santissima Trinità. Old-fashioned even in its day, the work is a musicalized instructional debate about the mysteries of the Holy Trinity between the allegorical personae of Faith, Theology, Faithlessness, Time, and Divine Love. If you're asleep already, it's for good reason. The libretto is the definition of dry – boring both for its rhetorical contrivance and its verbosity. But before you run for the nearest exit, know that Scarlatti responded to this uninspired mess of ideological bickering with outstanding music, entertaining from beginning to end. Drawing only on a small ensemble of strings and continuo, he created an improbably diverse-sounding score full of infectious rhythms, appealing vocal melodies, and rich textures. The recitatives are lavished with the same melodic care and detail as the arias and ensembles, and the personality of each character is etched into his music. Listening, one might think the plot revolves around a love affair, or a social intrigue. Certainly not wave upon wave of phrases like "One cannot believe it, but only raise one's eyebrows in stupefaction." In other words, if you can ignore the text it's an immensely fun listen, and a great example of the stylistic fluidity of Scarlatti's music in 1715.
For fans of the classical mandolin, here is a disc of the best works for the instrument by Antonio Vivaldi, the best friend the mandolin ever had. And for the rest of the world, here is a disc of colorful Baroque concertos by Antonio Vivaldi, the best friend the Baroque concerto ever had. After all, Vivaldi may have been the mandolin's best friend, but even he could only compose so many mandolin concertos.
With Antonio Caldara’s 'Morte e sepoltura di Christo', released on Glossa just after a new album devoted to Vivaldi’s late violin concertos, Fabio Biondi returns to the Italian oratorio, another of his specialities. The Venetians Caldara and Vivaldi may have been contemporaries but their career paths led them in different directions, and Caldara was to spend much time working in Mantua and Rome before securing the position of vice-Kapellmeister for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI in Vienna.
"Poro, re dell'Indie" (HWV 28) is an opera seria in three acts by George Frideric Handel. The Italian-language libretto was adapted from Alessandro nell'Indie by Metastasio, and based on Alexander the Great's encounter with King Porus in 326 BC. The libretto had already been set to music by Leonardo Vinci in 1729 and by Antonio Vivaldi among others and was used as the text for more than sixty operas throughout the 18th century. The opera was first given at the King's Theatre in London on 2 February 1731 and on 15 further occasions. A run of 16 performances was a mark of success for the time as is the fact that the work was revived on 23 December 1731, and again in a revised form on 8 December 1736. It was also given in Hamburg and Brunswick.
This production of Bellini's famous masterpiece Norma was extraordinary in many aspects. Staged by Italian director and filmmaker Roberto Ando at the Teatro Regio in Parma, it gathered international stars like American soprano June Anderson and shooting star Daniela Barcellona as well as Russian bass lldar Abdrazakov. Audience and critics alike enthusiastically received the remarkable orchestral accompaniment. Fabio Biondi's transparent conducting and the authentic performance practice of Europa Galante illuminated the musical structure of Bellini's opera and provided a new perspective on early 19th century opera.