The Great Violins

Vilsmaÿr: Artificiosus Concentus pro Camera
Peter Sheppard Skærved
athene ath 23210

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Johann Vilsmaÿr’s Six Partias (sic) for violin solo bridge the gap between the earliest such repertoire for solo violin by Biber and its fullest flowering at the hands of Bach and Telemann. Vilsmaÿr worked with Biber in Salzburg and would have been familiar with the latter’s remarkable oeuvre for solo violin – it is perhaps hardly surprising that his contribution to the genre is generally more orthodox, although it retains Biber’s interest in narrative flow and exploration of the sonic potential of the instrument. The lovely 1629 Amati violin, featured in this latest volume of the intriguing Great Violins series from athene, seems an instrument with an ideal depth of subtlety and sonority to bring this music to life. Whereas even just 20 years ago most people would have regarded the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin as an isolated masterpiece, the exploration of a variety of other sets of such music helps to set them in a context, and this latest set serves as something of a missing link in this genealogy. Vilsmaÿr described himself composing this music in his room, and it is easy to imagine him musing away on his instrument and improvising these elegant and expressive pieces. Skærved’s easy virtuosity and his obvious deep love of this instrument facilitate relaxed and wonderfully eloquent performances of the music, such that we can imagine ourselves eavesdropping on the original composition process.

D. James Ross

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