vivaldi bobesco forgotten fr2046

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Violin Sonatas
Sonata in D minor, RV 14
Sonata in G major, RV 22
Sonata in C major, RV 754
Sonata in A major, RV 758
Sonata in C minor, RV. 6 “dédiée à Pisendel
Sonata in D major, RV 10
Sonata in D minor, RV 14 Adagio
Lola Bobesco (violin)
Didier Aubert (cello)
Dominique Ferran (harpsichord)
rec. live, 13 October 1978, Chapelle du Lycée Henri IV, Autumn Festival, Poitiers, France

This recent release from Forgotten Records features a live concert given on the 13 October 1978 by violinist Lola Bobesco, cellist Didier Aubert and harpsichordist Dominique Ferran. The concert was part of the 1978 Autumn Festival in Poitiers. The venue is the Chapelle du Lycée Henri IV.

Bobesco was born, according to most sources, in 1921 in Craiova, Romania although Tully Potter, in his accompanying notes to Testament SBT 1360, puts the year as 1919. Her father was a composer, violinist and teacher, and gave Lola her first lessons. She then progressed on to Marcel Chailley and from there to Jules Boucherit at the Paris Conservatoire. Later, Georges Enescu and Jacques Thibaud had some input. In 1934, she clinched the Conservatoire’s first prize. In addition to a successful concert career, Bobesco taught violin at Brussels Conservatoire, and later at Liège (1962-1974). She died in Spa, Belgium in 2003.

The concert consisted of six violin sonatas by Antonio Vivaldi. Two sonatas bookend four of the so-called ‘Manchester sonatas’. The violinist introduces these in a short spiel after performing the opening work, the D major Sonata RV. 14. There are twelve Manchester Sonatas in all. The Manchester manuscript was discovered by Michael Talbot as late as 1973 in Manchester’s Central Music Library. They are regarded as a high point in the composer’s compositional oeuvre. Talbot holds the view that they were assembled by Vivaldi and presented to his musical patron Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni in 1726 on the occasion of a visit he made to Venice. One of these sonatas the musicians perform, RV 6 in C minor, bears a dedication to Johann Georg Pisendel, a brilliant violinist and fervent admirer of the composer.

All of the particular sonatas in this recital follow the four-movement sonata model developed by Corelli. They opens with an early sonata in D minor, RV 14 (Op. 2 No. 3). The twelve Opus 2 sonatas date from around 1708. Although the work isn’t terribly sophisticated it is melodically appealing, with the rhythms of the faster movements  catchy and propulsive.

The Manchester Sonatas I found much more interesting. In addition to their melodic largesse, they deploy touches of dramatic rhetoric. The cello seems to have more of an involved role rather than merely that of a continuo. Bobesco truly brings this music to life, free of mannerisms, with Aubert responding sensitively to every nuance and inflection in the score.

The final work in the programme is the Sonata in D, RV 10 which I’ve seen referred to as the “Dresden Sonata”. It’s a very accomplished work, and is more virtuosic than the other sonatas in the programme. For instance, there are several passages of double stops. The final movement, marked Allegro, is a real tour-de-force. With buoyant dance rhythms and double-stops, it calls time on the recital with a touch of scintillating pizzaz.

The Chapelle du Lycée Henri IV provides an attractive, warm ambience for this music, and a ideal balance has been struck between all three performers. The booklet contains no notes on the music, but does provide biographies of Didier Aubert and Dominique Ferran. There are also some black and white photographs of the event. Bobesco performs on a splendid Guadagnini of 1763, which has a marvelous honeyed tone. Dominique Ferran plays a harpsichord by Marc Ducornet. Audience applause has been retained, allowing us to savour some of the atmosphere of the occasion.  It’s a pity, though, that Bobesco chose the Adagio of RV14, the Sonata she began her programme with, as an encore.  It would have been nice if she had selected a movement from another sonata not on her programme.

Stephen Greenbank