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The Consort

Andrew Woolley

Summer 2014, Vol. 70

Martino Bitti
‘London’ Sonatas, nos.1-6 for violin and
basso continuo
Edition HH, Bicester, 2013
(pbk, £8.95 each, except no.3: £7.95)
HH328-333.fsp. ISMN 979 0 708092 803;
858; 841; 902; 919; 926

Martino Bitti (1655/6-1743) was the leading violinist-composer in Florence in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. He was also known to musicians outside Italy, such as the German violinist Johann Georg Pisendel (1687-1755), who picked up copies of Bitti’s music when he visited Florence on a tour of Italy, including what appears to be an autograph score of a violin concerto, now in the Saxon State and University Library, Dresden (SLUB).

A total of 24 violin sonatas by Bitti have been located, as outlined by Michael Talbot in an extended essay published on the Edition HH website, which considers in detail what is known about the composer’s life and the sources of the sonatas. In characteristically enterprising fashion, Edition HH will publish all or most of the sonatas in a series. The project editors are M Talbot, A Borin and A Frigé.

The eight ‘London’ sonatas are found in a Walsh publication of 1704, which contains two, and BL Add. MS 31466, a manuscript copied in Britain probably in the first decade of the 18th century. The present edition makes available the six sonatas unique to the manuscript (a seventh in the manuscript is concordant with one of the sonatas published by Walsh). There is a common design of four movements to five of them, with the third being in just three movements: following a prelude (or in one case an allemanda-type movement) is an allemanda or corrente, followed by a sarabanda or slow aria, and a concluding giga. These formal plans resemble those of the camera sonatas in Corelli’s op.5 collection (nos.7-11).

Although the relative brevity of many of the movements suggests a style a step back from Corelli’s, this is in no way a drawback, or necessarily suggestive of conservatism on Bitti’s part. Talbot proposes that the primary influences on Bitti were his Roman predecessors, with Carlo Mannelli (1640-97), a composer, violinist and castrato, being especially likely. Bitti can thus be seen as a figure who contributed to the development of the chamber sonata alongside Corelli.

Each sonata is available individually, and the score has been presented with a continuo realisation that compensates for the paucity of continuo figures in the source. Included also are parts for violin and basso continuo. The modest technical demands of the ‘London’ sonatas in particular, and their attractiveness, make the appearance of this edition most welcome.

We are grateful to the editor of The Consort for permission to reproduce this review.
Add to shopping basket‘London’ sonata No. 1 Add to shopping basket‘London’ sonata No. 2 Add to shopping basket‘London’ sonata No. 3
Add to shopping basket‘London’ sonata No. 4 Add to shopping basket‘London’ sonata No. 5 Add to shopping basket‘London’ sonata No. 6
Add to shopping basket‘London’ sonata No. 7 Add to shopping basket‘London’ sonata No. 8

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