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Two Albinoni sonatas recently discovered by Professor Michael Talbot and the only two extant cello sonatas written by who was the concertmaster of San Marco in Venice are just some of the works that have been recorded for the first time on our latest album. A unique recording that brings us to the Venice of the beginning of the 18th century. If you think that in those years Venice is just Vivaldi, this album will surprise you.
In 1709, the French François Raguenet wrote about the best violinists in Italy: “in Rome: Corelli and Montanari, in Venice: Giorgetto and Albinoni…”. He was referring to Giorgio Gentili and Tomaso Albinoni. However, the young Vivaldi, who by then was already Maestro di Violino in La Pietà and who would publish his second opus of violin sonatas that year, is not one of the best violinists for our French narrator. Our recording unearths the music of some of the greatest Venetian masters who at the dawn of the 18th century forged the style of the new century, and who are today overshadowed by the great Prete Rosso. This is wonderfully explained by Michael Talbot in the notes that he himself has kindly prepared for our CD:
Tomaso Albinoni (1671–1751)
Tomaso Albinoni is perhaps the most famous composer on our album. Although he enjoyed great fame during his life, the truth is that we do not know much about his life. Coming from a noble family dedicated to the playing cards making, Albinoni was a prolific as a composer of both secular vocal and instrumental music. He presents himself in his Op. 1 as “Musico di violino dilettante veneto” and was never part of the Venetian guild of instrumentalists (the Arte de sonadori). But we must bear in mind that the term dilettante (amateur) had positive connotations in the 18th century, it refers to the elevated status that Albinoni enjoys, allowing him to dedicate himself to music for sheer pleasure (diletto).
We present in world premiere two sonatas for violin and continued by Albinoni recently discovered by professor Michael Talbot in the the so-called Este Collection (Estensischen Musikalien) today held by the Austrian National Library. This collection was originated in the early eighteenth century in Padua and is, by far, the richest repository of unpublished instrumental works by Albinoni.
Giovanni Battista Reali (ca. 1681-1751)
We know very little about Giovanni Reali (or Zuanne Reali). In 1709 he published his Op. 1 in Venice, a set of trio sonatas of great quality dedicated to Arcangelo Corelli. His Sonate da camera a violino e basso, Op. 2 were published in Venice in 1712 and shortly afterwards in Amsterdam by Estienne Roger (1715) and a handwritten copy is kept at the Este Collection.
Giorgio Gentili (ca. 1668- after 1731)
Giorgio Gentili (in later years detto Faion) may have influenced the San Marco Basilica’s instrumental music for the forty odd years of his activity. He was hired as a violinist of San Marco in 1689 and four years later was appointed principal violinist, position in which he remained until at least 1731. As a leader he had at his command violinists such as Francesco Maria Veracini, Giovanni Battista Vivaldi, and Antonio Vivaldi.
We present in world premiere one of his Capricci da camera a violino e violoncello o cimbalo, Op. 3, published in Venice in 1707, as well as his only two sonatas for cello and continuo known until now.
Diogenio Bigaglia (1678–ca. 1745)
Bigaglia is perhaps one of the composers born in Venice whose style most reminds us of that of Antonio Lucio Vivaldi. Born in Murano on April 11, 1678, he did not follow his father’s career as a mirror-maker but dedicated himself to religious life as a Benedictine monk and became a famous composer of vocal and instrumental music.
Between 1716 and 1717 the famous concertmaster of the Dresden orchestra, Johann Georg Pisendel, visited Italy, with Venice being his main base, and took the opportunity to collect music and take music lessons. He took a large amount of music with him to Dresden in his luggage: among them three violin sonatas by Bigaglia, from which we have included one in our album.
Antonio Caldara (1670–1736)
Although Caldara will be best known for his activity in Rome and Vienna, he was also a renowned composer and instrumentalist in Venice. He was possibly born in Padua and became a cellist in the Chapel of San Marco in 1688.
We find the manuscript of this sonata in the same collection that contents Albinoni’s sonatas (Estensischen Musikalien), also copied on Venetian-format paper. This sonata is undoubtedly a proof of Caldara’s quality as a composer of instrumental music.