Richard Tognetti with Academy of Ancient Music – Vivaldi, Fasch, Pisendel, Veracini, Bach

Concerto in D for Violin, Two Oboes and Two Horns, RV562
Concerto in D minor for Lute, FaWV L:d1
Concerto Grosso in E flat, JunP II.1
Concerto in B minor for Four Violins and Cello, Op.3/10 (RV580)
Ouverture in B flat
Concerto in D for Three Violins, BWV1064 [reconstructed by Wilfried Fischer]
Concerto in F for Violin, Two Oboes, Two Horns and Bassoon, RV569

Academy of Ancient Music
Richard Tognetti (violin & director)

Reviewed by: Curtis Rogers

Reviewed: 27 February, 2014
Venue: Milton Court Concert Hall, London

Richard Tognetti. Photograph: – once regarded as the Florence of the North – became a cultural magnet after the Elector of Saxony moved his court there in 1547. Its location in the heart of Europe meant that it looked to North and South, as well as East (a subsequent Elector assumed the throne of Poland in 1697) and West (drawing inspiration from the politically and culturally powerful France). The Concertos performed here represented the diversity that obtained during the Electorship of Friedrich August I and exemplified the taste for multiple soloists. Commendably, the Academy of Ancient Music under Richard Tognetti’s direction gave a characteristically idiomatic performance of each piece.

No composer was as influential in the Dresden circle as Vivaldi, whose compositions were introduced there by Prince Friedrich August after two visits to Venice. Two Concertos for the unusual combination of violin with pairs of oboes and horns framed the concert. RV562 in D opened with strikingly solemn unison chords, the horns providing added gravitas. This gave way to a bubbling Allegro whose sequences sounded more Handelian than is usual with Vivaldi. Tognetti’s rhetorical account of the Grave’s cantilena was followed by a range of theatrical effects in the finale, capped by a long, flashy cadenza. Whereas the opening Concerto was almost nervously driven, with a somewhat dry tone from Tognetti’s playing almost sul ponticello at times, the Concerto in F (RV569) was given a more solidly sustained performance, in the slow movement Tognetti’s contribution evoked an operatic aria, and a refined conversation among the soloists brought the Concerto – and the evening – to an end.

Earlier on, Johann Friedrich Fasch’s Lute Concerto received greater decorum. Contrasts between loud and soft dynamics were present but William Carter’s solo (on the theorbo) was not very demonstrative. The somnolent Andante was succeeded by a forceful finale making an excellent case for a work that ought to be as well-known as Vivaldi’s single example (RV93). Johann Georg Pisendel was important at the Dresden court both as a collector of manuscripts and a composer. The AAM responded to the satisfying patterns of statement and answer in his E flat Concerto Grosso with a genial, relaxed character. At times Tognetti displayed a richer tone, like that of a viola, the orchestra’s delicate shadings resembling a musical chiaroscuro.

In Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins (later arranged by J. S. Bach for as many harpsichords) the AAM returned to a robust and heavily accented character. The Italian Francesco Maria Veracini sports an overtly French façade, however, in his B flat Ouverture, announced by the AAM with cocksure dotted rhythms, breaking into the irrepressible energy of the ensuing Allegro. This carried over into the brisk Minuet (somewhat mannered and heavy-handed) and into the clearly delineated compound rhythms of the ‘Gigue’ with some impressively unanimous scales rushing upwards. A witty ‘Rigaudon’ rounded things off.

As the penultimate piece, the AAM performed the reconstruction for violins of what is assumed to be the original version of Bach’s Concerto for Three Harpsichords. Strongly characterised rhythms were a feature here, as in the Veracini, though due weight was given to the greater seriousness of Bach’s contrapuntal ingenuity, eliciting a close integration of texture among the soloists and between them and the orchestra. For an encore Tognetti led the AAM in a delectable rendition of the magical slow movement of Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto RV300 (the Tenth of the Opus 9 collection, La Cetra) with an affecting melody of almost Classical grace over quiet pizzicatos.

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