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The Consort

Joel Raymond

Summer 2008, Vol 64

Antonio Montanari
Trio Sonata for 2 oboes and continuo

Edition HH115, Bicester, 2007
(pbk £9.95)
ISMN 979 0 708041 80 1
available from Schott & Co.

Michael Talbot opens this edition with a well-written preface, giving scholarly information on both Montanari (1676-1737) and the background to this trio sonata. As detailed in the preface, Montanari, although not well know today, was considered second only to Corelli in Rome where they both resided, and his reputation was such that the famous German violinist Pisendel took lessons with him during his time in Italy.

This trio sonata comes from the collection of the Swedish organist and music director, Henrich Christoffer Engelhart (b. 1694), which was bequeathed by his son to the Akademiska Capelle in Lund. It is one of just three surviving trio sonatas by Montanari and, along with Vivaldi’s trio sonata RV 81, also in the Lund collection, it is a rare example of an Italian trio sonata written specifically for two oboes. It is possible that they were commissioned for musicians outside Italy, since oboe ensembles had a much greater standing in musical life in western and northern Europe. The Italians, however, use oboes very effectively in these trio sonata settings.

The sonata is in 3-movement form: Adagio - Allegro - Vivace. The first movement has a beautiful, plaintive quality to the melody, which is treated in a typical imitative manner, and with less melodic development than its German equivalents. Its simplicity leaves room for ornamentation, which would have been integral to the Italian style of playing, yet the movement doesn’t lack beauty when played without ornamentation. The opening of the second movement is reminiscent of themes found in Vivaldi’s string concertos. Tension is built up over long sequences, and a fun ricocheting effect of alternate quavers being passed back and forth from oboe to oboe is very effective, as are the typical Italianate suspensions.

The final Vivace in 3/8, using a dotted figuration, is sprightly in character. It is perhaps, as Michael Talbot suggests, reminiscent of a minuet. However, rather than his suggestion that its speed and character might have the gait of a portly minuet, I wonder whether this movement should have the life and vitality of the 3/8 finale movements commonly found in Italian oboe concertos, such as the superb last movement of Marcello’s D minor concerto, the 3/8 time signature itself being indicative of an upbeat approach.

The typesetting is very clear and easy to read, and editorial decisions have been clearly marked, or listed in a set of textural notes found after the preface. I played through the sonata with other members of the Oboe Band. We found the edition very easy to work from, and the music enjoyable. There was just one bar in the first movement where we felt that there perhaps an error in the bass part for three consecutive quavers (bar 7: quavers 5 and 6). The upper parts work well at this point, so our solution was to alter the three bass notes to something that we felt was more coherent. This small point is no dent in a very good publication that has en presented with care, and which I would highly recommend.

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