The Strad Issue: January 2009
Musicians: Thomas Georgi (viola d’amore) Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann (cello) Lucas Harris (archlute/guitar) Emma Kirkby (soprano)
Composer: Ariosti

With this CD, Thomas Georgi completes his magisterial survey of the music for viola d’amore by Handel’s contemporary Attilio Ariosti (1666–1729). The manuscript of his Recueil de pièces pour la viola d’amour is preserved in the Stockholm State Music Library (hence the nickname ‘Stockholm Sonatas’), while the cantata with obbligato viola d’amore, Pur alfin gentil viola, is in the library at Darmstadt University in Germany.

As Georgi puts it in his typically erudite booklet notes, Ariosti seems to have invented the viola d’amore afresh every time he composed a new piece, since his way of writing for the instrument varies from one composition to the next. The cantata – expressively sung by Emma Kirkby – most resembles modern viola d’amore notation, being written for an instrument tuned in C minor, and written in scordatura. The ‘Stockholm Sonatas’, on the other hand, are written in ‘real’ notation, giving the present-day player the additional difficulty of first having to figure out how to tune the instrument (mostly in thirds and fourths, in the key of the piece in question).

In the course of the three volumes, Georgi has fascinatingly explored diverse interpretative options for Ariosti’s music regarding the tuning and type of the playing strings as well as the use or otherwise of sympathetic strings. Here, as in earlier volumes, he is completely at home in Ariosti’s capriciously Corellian style. His copious embellishments, inspired by those from Baroque authorities like Pisendel and Dubourg, ring absolutely true, as does the colourful realisation of the continuo by varying combinations of archlute, guitar and cello. BIS’s recording is – as usual – excellent.    

Carlos María Solare