Lonati: Sonate da camera (1701)

Gunar Letzbor, Ars Antiqua Austria
61:42
Pan Classics PC 10363

This recording features four (of six) sonate da camera  from Lonati’s XII Sonate a violino solo e basso, printed in Salzburg in 1701. As the booklet notes suggest, they were probably written earlier in the virtuoso violinist’s career, and at least some of them look north of the Alps for their inspiration. The first three (nos. 1-3 of the second part of the publication) use a variety of scordatura (a retuning of the strings of the violin to give a different timbre to the sound and allow a different range of chordal possibilities). The final work from the set is simply labelled “Ciaccone” and goodness, what a beast of a movement it is! Variation after variation before the style switches completely for a couple of short movements then off the chaconne goes again, ever more intricate, ever more demanding ‒ either the violinist had a page-turning assistant or his part must have been written out on enormous paper. Letzbor’s lightness of touch and deft bow work bring out all the subtleties in the music, far and away the very best playing I have ever heard from him. The continuo line-up of keyboard, lute and 8’ violone provide an unfussy aural backdrop that throws the always interesting solo line into relief. The scores are readily available online – following them merely underlines Letzbor’s equalling Lonati’s wizardry.

Brian Clark