Plenty to impress in this devilishly difficult music

La Serenissima: Diavolo

The Strad Issue: April 2024

Description: Plenty to impress in this devilishly difficult music

Musicians: La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler (violin)

Works: Tartini: Violin Sonatas: op.1 nos. 1, 6 and 7; 26 Sonatas: nos.6 and 9; in G minor ‘The Devil’s Trill’

Catalogue number: SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD781

Adrian Chandler and La Serenissima offer a representative selection of Tartini’s violin sonatas from the collection variously published as op.1, along with two ‘sonate piccole’ from a collection of 26. Chandler’s sonorous tone, expressive embellishment and varied bowing styles allow him a rhythmic and lyrical freedom that highlights the primacy of cantabile melody in these works, as in his beautiful rendition of the Grave of the D major Sonata op.1 no.6. He also demonstrates commendable technical dexterity, adeptly overcoming Tartini’s challenging double and multiple stoppings with apparent ease. His demonic account of ‘The Devil’s Trill’ builds to heights of passion in its Larghetto affettuoso and he thoroughly masters the high-voltage Allegros’ groups of frenzied trills, sometimes resorting to more modern methods of attack. His continuo team provides imaginative support, but the resonant, strikingly up front recording severely limits the listener’s perception of dynamic differentiation.

Chandler varies the instrumentation for the two piccolo sonatas, using the optional cello accompaniment for no.9 but performing no.6 unaccompanied, as Tartini originally intended. He plays no.9’s opening movement with commendable lyrical freedom, adding a modicum of additional ornamentation to its already florid style; and he revels in that sonata’s other three dance-influenced movements and no.6’s robust Giga, with its folksy drones, unisons and harmonic clashes, again resorting occasionally to non-historical bowing techniques.