One basic feature, which determines the difference between Fone and other record companies, is the recording of performances in their natural spaces, that is in the places where they were originally presented. This leads to a constant search for suitable locations, and the choice of churches, theatres, country mansions, drawing rooms and so on. The recordings are carried out with the utmost simplicity, the only way not to do violence to the music: all the equipment is high fidelity; use is made of valve-type paired microphones manufactured in the years 1947 and 1949 (U47, U48 and M49) with an extremely natural and transparent timbre and a bi-microphonic field effect; these microphones have a very important history: they were used to record the Beatles at the Abbey Road Studio and by the RCA for the "Living Stereo" recordings.
Concerts and Follies in G. B. Pergolesi's time
The intention of I Musici's latest production is to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. The musical journey starts with a tribute to Francesco Geminiani, outstanding exponent together with Locatelli and Somis from Corelli's school. The Concerto Grosso No. 12 "La Follia" from the sonata op. 5 no. 12 by Arcangelo Corelli for strings and harpsichord (a theme and variations), reminds us of the brightness of an exciting virtuosity that he took abroad, especially to London. There the Italian master became famous as he fed the tradition of great violinists gifted with capabilities and techniques of the time. We can't how ever, leave out Corelli, foremost protagonist of the sonata, concerto and the baroque violin. His collections of instrumental music from 1681 came into their own as compositions of value in the following century, a period that imposed the Italian musical theatre tradition not only throughout Europe but beyond. Pergolesi, whose surname was originally Draghi, descendant from the family Pergola, thus "Pergolesi", was deeply attached to Naples. He studied at the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesu' Cristo, where his violin teacher was first Domenico de Matteis then Durante. One may call all his works Neapolitan. It isn't by chance that his compositions are fundamen tally connected to the musical theatre, particularly the buffa (comic) form, which Pergolesi mastered an example being the significant and very noted La Serva padrona and, altogether different, the Stabat Mater. It also isn't coincidental that the best contributions of the period were from musicians and composers who had made a study of the violin, the instrument which best imitated the human voice, that for everyone was the supreme ideal. I Musici in their faithful way, have chosen to pay homage to the celebrated composer by presenting rarely played compositions, therefore not much known on the concert platform. The Concerto per violino, archi e basso continuo in B flat major features in the Pergolesi catalogue as one of the few instrumental works (in fact there are only five) but which is undoubtedly attributed to him. From the outset we are immediately introduced to music typical of the baroque sound which however, reveals a lyrical character of the instrument that gives a foretaste of the development of Italian instrumental music that was later to redominate. A discussion of the solo concerto of the 18th century, inevitably brings to mind Antonio Vivaldi, recognisable for his use of formal and stylistic characteristics starting with the classical structure in three movements. He was a giant in his time by the abundance of his writing (he wrote 480 concertos alone), as well as by representing the Venetian school which was famous throughout the world. Contrary to Pergolesi, Vivaldi's compositions are more articulate and centred mostly around the instrumental form. I Musici selected the Concerto per due violoncelli, archi e continuo RV 531 in G minor and the Concerto per violino, archi e continuo "Grosso Mogul" RV 208 in D major. The second, as noted, struck Bach especially because of the violin's cadenza and it should have indicated ‘India' in the title as was customary at that time. Mogul was the great Islamic dynasty that dominated India from the 3rd century to the beginning of the 18th and obviously fired the imagination.
In both the concertos there are recognisable characteristics of Vivaldi's style. We have the ritornello form, the space given to the soloists and their virtuosity on the violin or, in our case the cellos, and much of the baroque tradition including imitation, progressions, echo effects, lyricism and thematic invention. It doesn't matter if Vivaldi didn't create all the specific elements of the genre that one recognised in Corelli or Torelli. What remains is his lesson which became a reference of the new and impetuous and brilliant style that makes the composer not only Monteverdi's heir but also Haydn and Mozart's predecessor. Francesco Durante leads us once again to the capital of the kingdom, that in the 18th century was populated (as calculated) by about 400,000 in habitants and that finally had its king, Charles VII and his court stably established in Naples. Being head of the school, his expressly didactic merits were recognised but he was also one of the few who dedicated much time to music of the theatre. The Concerto per archi No. 8 in A major "La Pazzia", although similar in movement structure to Vivaldi, is very different in substance. The new themes evolve and follow up like a continuous chord, between the solo violas and the rest of the formation, in the acceptance of the concerto that is attributed to the 17th century. Even the virtuosic expression present in the fast movements is contained and not comparable to Vivaldi's example. It is rather generally restrained and is consistent with his production of sacred music. Finally, what is evident is that the pieces and composers present on the CD are often connected with madness or folly as nominated in the title.
This is also found in the works of Scarlatti, Geminiani and other famous musicians. This theme wasn't only characterised in the 18th century. The concept of madness is a precise musical theme but it is especially an at titude which was fairly common in the music of that period and in many others. Lightness, brilliance and being carefree are constituents of a "lucid madness" that translates into the joy of making music and of enjoying it. Emblematic here, is the carnival of Venice. One encountered diversions and distortions of the 18th century rules that didn't permit excesses of any kind, that in music had been brought to a rational and controlled dimension. They were allowed only in art, because socially they were considered dangerous. On the other hand games, enjoyment and happiness were part of the terms play and spiele that in English and German were synonymous with music. In the end, in Neapolitan dialect, "pazzia" (madness) in the typical expression "stai pazziando?" or "are you crazy?" further underlines a joke or a game, perhaps not always reassuring. Certainly a Neapolitan like Durante, wouldn't have missed the connection.
Gianfranco Miscia (English translation: Desiree Bonfiglio)