L'Arte del Violino | Harper's Magazine

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L’Arte del Violino

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violin

Here is some music for an early January afternoon. The settecento is filled with wonderful violin music, but the real gem of the epoch is Pietro Antonio Locatelli’s L’arte del violino, published as opus 3 in Amsterdam in 1733. We usually associate the virtuoso violin with the epoch of Paginini, but a century earlier, Locatelli was doing unimaginable things with a violin, and building a series of concertos around his technical virtuosity. There are twelve concertos in the opus, and each features a virtuoso capriccio in which the violinist is challenged to a new kind of artistry. There are a number of recordings of the opus 3, including a memorable one by Suzanne Lautenbacher with the Mainz Chamber Orchestra (Vox CD X 5018), but one wins hands down, and it involves period instruments to boot: Elizabeth Wallfisch with the Raglan Baroque Players in a Hyperion recording from 1993 (Hyperion CD A66721/3). Here is the first concerto, famous for its vexatiously difficult bowing (note the slurred staccato in the capriccio to the second movement), it introduces the opus with real panache. Elizabeth Wallfisch performs on a baroque violin, made around 1750 by Petrus Paulus de Vitor in Brescia.

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