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Ionarts in Siena: Giuliano Carmignola

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Vivaldi, Four Seasons / Locatelli concertos, G. Carmignola, Venice Baroque Orchestra, A. Marcon (remastered, 2003)
Reading Dante's Commedia is all about making connections, with other literature, with art that Dante knew well, and not least with parallel sections of the poem itself. In tribute to that self-referential spirit, we found ourselves back where the whole Dante seminar got started, the monastery that we visited on the first full day here, Sant'Antimo near Montalcino. The place is a Romanesque monastery church with a stunning acoustic resonance, in which we heard the present monastic community chant a Latin Vespers (on the feast day of John the Baptist). It was also the site in which a wonderful recording of Palestrina's settings of texts from the Song of Songs was made. On Saturday night, Sant'Antimo was host to a recital by violinist Giuliano Carmignola and pianist Yasuyo Yano, which was part of the 76th Estate Musicale Chigiana. Both musicians teach in summer courses offered at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana, here in Siena.

Carmignola performed with Andrea Marcon's Venice Baroque Orchestra at the Library of Congress in February, a concert I heard but did not feel obligated to review. That feeling was certainly not due to the quality of the performance, which was stunning. As a result I started listening intently to one of the many Vivaldi recordings featuring those forces, a disc still possibly up for review (Jens has reviewed a more recent one). This recital program combined four pieces for violin and keyboard, all from within a relatively short period in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. As a result, Carmignola played not his usual 17th-century instrument but a magnificent 1733 Pietro Guarneri violin from 1733, and Yano played on a pianoforte, with a beautiful, mellow timbre. The effect of the sound of those instruments in the vaulted space was fascinating, and Carmignola and Yano could be observed from time to time looking up toward the timbered ceiling as unexpected echoes came back to their ears.

Giuliano Carmignola, violinist
Giuliano Carmignola, violinist
The evening began a little tentatively with Mozart's E-flat major sonata (K. 380), as Carmignola's sound warmed up slowly, perhaps the result of a slight holding back at first. It is true that this piece is mostly a sonata for piano, which almost always takes the lead, introducing melodies that the violin ornaments. The performance matured over the forlorn melody of the second movement, in which Carmignola gave an interesting, almost blue-note tuning of some of its notes. The third movement rondeau was a spritely romp with earthy, rural inflections. Much better in the first half was Beethoven's G major sonata (op. 30, no. 3), which satisfied directly from its arresting opening measures, in which a brillante tempo and approach were set. Carmignola and Yano had an incisive attack together on the numerous sforzando effects in the first movement and negotiated the wild tour of harmonic areas toward the end of the gracious minuetto. The crescendo of the half concluded with the extremely fast, almost modo perpetuo-like third movement, over the booming drone of the keyboard's left hand.

The second half was given over to Schubert, beginning with a relatively early sonata, D. 408, not published until after the composer's death (op. post. 137, no. 3). It opens with a thundering first theme, and at the repeat of the exposition, Carmignola turned and seemed to jab the insistent sound in the direction of the carved crucifix at the back of the apse, again perhaps looking for different reverberations. This work, although pleasing and melodically rewarding, seems short and not too harmonically adventurous for Schubert, with a balletic menuetto and trio and a carefree final movement. With the B minor rondo (op. 70, D. 895), we arrived at a more characteristic Schubert, with a work that is harmonically all over the place. Its first movement, marked Andante, is a sort of fantasia that prompted the largest, most assured tone from Carmignola. In the second movement, which requires so much high E string playing from the violinist, he seemed to tire just slightly. After considerable effort on a warm evening, both Carmignola and Yano looked exhausted and went to a well-deserved rest, but not after two encores, reprises of movements from the Mozart and Beethoven. Just to prove that they had more energy to give, they played the encores at even faster tempi and added in some much missed embellishments and improvised touches.

Concerts continue throughout August, in Siena and nearby towns, in the 76th Estate Musicale Chigiana, including performances by harpsichordist Christophe Rousset (August 1), cellist Antonio Meneses (August 3), and pianist Maurizio Pollini (August 12). Reviews will be forthcoming until Ionarts is constrained to leave Italy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Carmingnola and John Williams on guitar would be a rare duo.