Quattro violini a Venezia

CD cover of Quattro violini a Venezia Clematis

Clematis
64:35
Ricercar RIC404
Buonamente, Castello, Cavalli, Fontana, Giovanni Gabrieli, Biagio Marini, Salomone Rossi & Uccellini

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Having already recorded some sonatas for four violins and continuo by Legrenzi on a previous Ricercar recording, it makes sense that Clematis would follow up with an exploration of earlier repertoire for the same line up. All of the “usual suspects” are there and aural variety is afforded by the inclusion of some sonatas for one, two or “only” three violins. The continuo varies across the duration of the disc and includes harp, organ, harpsichord, guitar, theorbo, bassoon and bass viol. As elsewhere, I’m afraid I find the harp an imposter, especially when the player is weaving treble lines through the polyphony of the violins (indeed, I was aggravated by it in the Gabrieli sonata for three violins – it is not a “concerto for harp with the accompaniment of three violins”! Do I want to hear Gabrieli or the harpist? Is the role of the continuo not to provide harmonic support? If the instrument is incapable of doing so without drawing attention to itself (just liste to the flurry of inappropriateness during the final chord!), perhaps it should not be used for continuo playing.

Apart from my reservations about the involvement of harpists, the playing is mostly excellent, the recording is typical Ricercar excellence and the booklet notes are very thorough, though an absolute pleasure to read.

Brian Clark