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The Consort

Robin Stowell

No. 63, Summer 2007

Giuseppe Torelli
Sinfonia (Sonata) in A major TV50,
for 2 violins and basso continuo
ed. MICHAEL TALBOT
Edition HH, Bicester, 2006 (pbk, 13.95)
ISMN M708059 19 6

Concertino (Sonata) in A minor TV51,
for 2 violins and basso continuo
ed. MICHAEL TALBOT
Edition HH, Bicester, 2006 (pbk, 12.95)
ISMN M708059 24 0

both available from Schott & Co.

Born in Verona, Giuseppe Torelli (1658-1709) remains a relatively unappreciated composer for whom serious re-evaluation is long overdue. He was for most of his life a prominent string player (a violinist, 'tenor' violist and cellist) and composer in the Accademia Filarmonica and the collegiate church of San Petronio in Bologna. While his music for trumpet and strings comprises his most significant corpus of works, his string concertos for various combinations are also of considerable importance, not least because some of his mature examples in the genre derive from chamber works of striking originality.
As their alternative titles indicate, these two interesting works survive in both orchestral and chamber versions. The original version of the Sinfonia in A major (TV50) is a sonata for two violins with concerto-like elements, while the later version is transformed into a fully-fledged concerto for two solo violins and strings. Similarly, according to a source in the San Petronio archives, the Concertino (TV5 1) is an exhilarating two-violin sonata with concerto characteristics, which metamorphoses into a Concerto 4 for four solo violins, strings (including an added viola) and continuo (including two organs, violoni and theorbo). Either version of the Sinfonia can be played from the score and parts published here by HH Ltd., but Michael Talbot's edition of the Concertino caters only for chamber performance.
The Sinfonia comprises three movements: a brilliant Allegro, featuring numerous echo effects in its ritornello, and a Fugato finale, framing a Largo whose skeletal content requires considerable extempore embellishment from the soloists. Torelli even left an interesting sketched proposal for the embellishment of bars 5-8, included here in the editor's notes. The Concertino, however, is a four movement work commencing with an introductory Grave, complete with concluding echo effects, followed by a Presto in fugal style incorporating fairly challenging passage work for both violins, largely in imitation. A brief Adagio leads to the Presto finale in which lively, imitative solo passages alternate with the tutti texture.
In addition to original Torelli sources housed in the San Petronio archives and elsewhere, Michael Talbot's meticulous editions of these works make use of a manuscript source of chamber music by Torelli acquired at auction by the British Library in 1987 (Add. 64965) and previously owned by Thurston Dart, among others. Each edition includes an informative bilingual (English/German) introductory preface and is a model of practical editing for the modern performer. Editorial intervention, although moderate, is efficiently signalled both in the text and in the 'Textual Notes' at the back of each volume. As there are few errors concerning actual notes, Talbot's editorial contribution is confined largely to conventions regarding accidentals, bass figuring and key signature, as well as the addition of articulation by analogy, dynamic indications, and a simple figured bass realisation (for organ or harpsichord); this latter makes the edition usable by a wider public, while maximising the potential for extempore textural or harmonic elaboration.
Presented here in clear and uncluttered editions, both these works are published for the first time and are significant and welcome additions to the repertoire. They clearly demonstrate that, for Torelli, there were striking overlaps between the sonata and concerto genres in terms of style, structure and concertante requirements and that the only notable distinctions were those of mode (whether with or without the ripieno strings) and performing context.

We are grateful to the editor of The Consort for permission to reproduce this review.
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