Mancini: XII Solos, London 1724

CD cover of Mancini XII solos Armonia delle Sfere

Armonia delle Sfere
115:46 (2 CDs in a single jewel case)
Tactus TC 671390

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These ‘Solos for a Violin or Flute’, (incidentally not ‘a Violin of Flute’ as it appears on the cover and back of the CD) are actually fully-fledged sonatas in four movements, and some of the most ambitious and successful chamber music Mancini composed. Famous during his lifetime for his operas and church music, Mancini operated in the musically rich environment of Naples, and is sadly one of the many such composers whose reputation has suffered an almost complete eclipse in ensuing centuries. On the basis of these solo sonatas, it is hard to see why this is: they are charmingly accessible, consistently inventive and idiomatically written for the recorder. Daniele Salvatore by alternating two treble recorders with a voice flute, a sopranino recorder and a transverse flute, dispenses with the need for the violin alternative option. I find his vibrato (particularly in the free unaccompanied introductory episodes) a little extreme, and he has the annoying habit of occasionally overblowing so as to ‘jam’ high notes, although elsewhere he plays more sympathetically and has an impressive technique. Two of Mancini’s keyboard toccatas, essentially study pieces rather than concert works, provide a little textural variety, while the move to sopranino recorder and the introduction of a guitar into the continuo ensemble really switches things up a notch for the final sonata. It is good to see Italian ensembles exploring their considerable national Baroque heritage, and Mancini sounds likes a composer worthy of attention.

D. James Ross