Problematic tuning and inauthentic instrumentation dog these sonatas

Pierluigi Mencattini: Piani

The Strad Issue: August 2022

Description: Problematic tuning and inauthentic instrumentation dog these sonatas

Musicians: Pierluigi Mencattini (violin) Labirinto Armonico

Works: Piani: 12 Sonate a Violino solo e Violoncello col Cimbalo op.1

Catalogue number: TACTUS TC 671690 (2 CDs)

A two-disc set of Piani’s op.1 violin sonatas, with their ground-breaking specific performance annotations for ornamentation, articulation and expression, would normally be warmly welcomed; but this release falls short on many counts. Pierluigi Mencattini’s variable accuracy, suspect intonation, slack rhythmic execution and lean, predominantly on-the-string violin tone will not find favour with many listeners; nor will his apparent inability effectively to shape the line with any natural fluency, particularly in the ornate opening Preludios. His technical limitations and the introduction of countless textual infidelities in terms of bowing and dynamic nuance fail to support Tactus’s claim that his interpretations fully respect Piani’s intentions.


The six-strong Labirinto Armonico exploits a wide range of continuo instruments far beyond the prescribed cello and cimbalo. Galileo di Ilio’s cello playing is largely well to the fore and the sporadic archlute accompaniments of Sergio Basilico are imaginatively executed, notably in the Sarabanda of no.3 and the Poco andante of no.12; but the movements employing a full complement of instruments, such as the Corrente of no.3 and the Preludio of no.6, sound uncomfortably heavy.

Moreover, the close, over-resonant recording tends to emphasise the unrelenting nature of much of the playing. Although the inclusion of tambourines and other percussion instruments in, for example, the finales of nos.2, 4, 8, 10 and 12 enlivens the violin playing somewhat, it has no historical justification.