Montanari: Violin Concertos

Montanari: Violin Concertos
Ensemble Diderot, Johannes Pramsohler
Audax Records ADX13704. 60’02

‘Dresden’ Concerto in c; Opus 6 Concertos Nos 1, 5, 6, 7, 8.

Montanari: Violin ConcertosAntonio Maria Montanari (1676-1737) was one of the most celebrated violinists in Rome during the period when Handel was there. He played in the orchestras of many of Rome most extravagant families and cardinals, including the Borghese, Ruspoli, Colonna and Pamphilj. He played in the first performance of Handel’s La Resurrezion in 1708. After Corelli’s death in 1713, Montanari took over some of his concertmaster roles. He is little known today, but his Opus 6 collection of violin concertos was one of the most advanced sets of the period. This inspiring CD of six of his concertos (all but one being first recordings – the Concerto in A Major, Op1/8 has been recorded by EUBO, the European Union Baroque Orchestra) will do much to return him to his former fame.

The concertos on this CD reveal a talented and adventurous composer, willing to test new formulations of musical structure and form. From the comparative simplicity of the so-called ‘Dresden’ Concerto to the sensuous and expansive Largo from Op1/6 (track 6), the range of his writing is compelling. The fast movements are broadly Roman in style, although again reveal flashes of individual character. The music has not been published, and only survives complete in one library in Vienna. I have occasionally used the phrase “plucked from well-deserved obscurity” in reviews of less impressive rediscoveries, but that sentiment certainly does not apply to Montanari.

But it is not just Montanari who will gain from this exposure, because Johannes Pramsohler’s Ensemble Diderot’s sparkling and effervescence performance is a wonderful essay in how to present and promote Baroque music in general. Full of musical insight into what lies behind the notes and what a Baroque musician might do with those notes, the performance itself is a delight. Whether listening to the way that Pramsohler articulates individual notes or subtly express the larger-scale structures of the music, his attention to detail is an object lesson in musical performance.

The CD comes in a sumptuous 120-page hardcover book format, with a comprehensive essay by Michael Talbot, in English, German, French and Italian.

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