Tartini in new garb, with mixed results

Cristiano Contadin: Tartini Concertos and Sonatas on the Viol

The Strad Issue: June 2023

Description: Tartini in new garb, with mixed results

Musicians: Opera Prima/Cristiano Contadin (viola da gamba)

Works: Tartini: Concertos: in D major, A major; Concerto grosso in G minor after the ‘Devil’s Trill Sonata’ (arr. Gianluca Bersanetti); Sonatas: G minor, B flat major

Catalogue number: CPO 555388-2

Tartini Concertos and Sonatas on the Viol

Scholarly debate regarding Tartini’s intended solo instrument for these two concertos is ongoing. Cristiano Contadin opts for the viola da gamba, inspired by the contents of the Ledenburg Collection, comprising primarily of works and transcriptions for that instrument. Although his preference creates some technical problems circumventable by using a five-stringed violoncello piccolo, he performs his solo episodes and the D major Concerto’s extended written-out capricci with due panache and takes in his stride difficulties such as the trills in the double-stopping in the finale of the A major Concerto. Natural horns, sometimes unsteady in pitch, colour the outer movements of the D major work, the melancholy third movement of which is sensitively shaped and expressively embellished. However, as with Gianluca Bersanetti’s concerto grosso-style arrangement of Tartini’s ‘Devil’s Trill’ Sonata – and despite the sterling efforts of Federico Guglielmo and his colleagues in the small-scale Opera Prima – much of the finer virtuoso detail is obscured by an over-reverberant recording and problems of instrumental balance.

The two, more intimate, sonatas fare better, suffering little textural or harmonic disturbance from occasional octave displacement of their original versions. Contadin shapes their galant melodies into a reasonably coherent narrative, tastefully ornamenting their opening movements and energising their final allegros. Harpsichordist Roberto Loreggian provides stylish support.