Locatelli: L’Arte del Violino Op. III

Diego Conti, Gli Archi di Firenze
212:04 (3 CDs in a card triptych)
Tactus TC 691280

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This comprehensive 3-CD set presents the twelve violin concertos of Locatelli’s op111 Art of the Violin recorded in a variety of venues over a period of ten years from 1988 to 1998 by Diego Conti and Gli Archi di Firenzi. Locatelli was one of a handful of violin virtuosi who completely revolutionised the musical world of the 18th century, and his 24 eye-wateringly virtuosic capriccii ad libitum published along with the concerti serve as cadenzas. From the outset, Diego Conti’s sparkling and showy playing seems to summon the ghost of Locatelli, and, if the liberties he takes with tempo must have driven his Archi di Firenze to near distraction over the years, I am quite sure that the flamboyant Locatelli would have done exactly the same! It is of course in the wild capriccii that Conti’s full virtuosity is put to the test, and he comes out of these with flying colours. If the playing of the ensemble sounds a little lacklustre by comparison, this is maybe inevitable and perhaps even part of Locatelli’s original design. Of all the achievements of HIP performers over the years, I find the recreation of the music of these violin virtuosi perhaps the most revelatory and remarkable – to master a period instrument, bow and technique so thoroughly as to be able to rival these extraordinary virtuosi of the past is truly amazing! If Locatelli’s capriccii never quite go in the direction you would expect, neither did his life – having spent his career doing the unexpected, he then retired to Amsterdam in his mid-twenties in mid-career and seemed satisfied with a life of luxurious solitude, enjoying the financial fruits of his previous concert life and his publications. 

D. James Ross

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