Classical CD Reviews

CARLO TESSARINI: Complete (Twelve) Violin Concertos, Op. 1 – Marco Pedrona/ Ensemble Guidantus – Indésens (2 CDs)

A useful introduction to the music of Carlo Tessarini, a Vivaldi contemporary and rival.

Published on March 26, 2013

CARLO TESSARINI: Complete (Twelve) Violin Concertos, Op. 1 – Marco Pedrona/ Ensemble Guidantus – Indésens CAL 1207 (2 discs), 46:00; 60:00 [Distr. by Allegro] ***1/2:

Not a great deal is known about Carlo Tessarini, especially his early life, and that includes the date of his birth, which happened sometime around 1690 in the city of Rimini. This I know because the notes to the current recording tell me so; besides, the booklet also reproduces the title page of a pirated edition of the Opus 1 Concerti, published in London, which credits one “Carlo Tessarini di Rimini.” His first important position, or the first one we know about, was as violinist to the ducal capella at Venice’s San Marco in 1720. Three years later Tessarini was appointed violinist at the Ospedale di Poveri Derelini, a school for impoverished children like Vivaldi’s Ospedale della Pièta, where in the same year the Venetian master commenced his second stint as maestro di violino.

In 1731, Tessarini accepted a position at the Cathedral in Urbino, where he worked for three decades, undoubtedly writing a good deal of vocal music, none of which has come down to us. During his years in Urbino, Tessarini managed to write a treatise on violin playing, Grammatica di musica, which must have had a following since it was translated into three languages. He also managed to concertize in Frankfurt, London, and Amsterdam. Tessarini ended his days in the Netherlands, where (according to advertisements for his concerts) he continued to play into his seventies, dying there in 1767.

Tessarini’s Opus 1 appeared in 1724, the first of a number of instrumental compositions to be published and widely distributed. Besides seventy concerti and a raft of music for chamber ensembles, Tessarini was supposed to have written seventy symphonies and so can be considered among those transitional figures between the late Baroque and early Classical periods.

Opus 1 shows the clear influence of Vivaldi, which isn’t surprising given the fact that Tessarini had been working in the city of Vivaldi for four years by this time and undoubtedly had enjoyed the experience of hearing the Red Priest and his music first-hand. Only a year after Tessarini’s collection appeared, Vivaldi revolutionized the solo concerto with the publication of Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione. Tessarini’s collection may seem pale by comparison: there are no Four Seasons, no La tempesta di mare—in fact, no named or programmatic works among the twelve. But they are fluently written, with good solid melodies and solo writing that showcases the violin in an attractively unostentatious way. As with Vivaldi, some of the slow movements give the performers the chance to plumb deeper emotions, including the Largo from Concerto No. 8 in B-flat Major and No. 5 in G Major, both of which are fairly extensive as far as concerto slow movements of this vintage are concerned. (In contrast is the Largo from No. 6 in B-flat Major, a mere transitional passage in which the soloist doesn’t even get a chance to place his bow on the strings.) For listeners with an interest in the music of Vivaldi’s heyday, these concertos should entertain as well as enlighten.

Violinist Marco Pedrona is not required to scale the heights of Baroque instrumental writing, and his style of playing, probably consistent with Tessarini’s compositional style, is less flamboyant than that of more high-profile players such as Fabio Biondi and Giuliano Carmignola. Pedrona’s performance seems just a touch lacking in the crispness and cleanness that would give Tessarini’s music greater profile, but Ensemble Guidantus provides lively, nimble accompaniments and is captured in respectable sound in a setting that despite its fancy name—Centro Icaro Aulla—seems to be a multi-use facility on the order of a community center. While I can imagine better performances and recordings, this album nonetheless serves as a useful introduction to a Vivaldi contemporary and rival.

—Lee Passarella




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