Pegolotti Trattenimenti Armonici Tactus TC661604

Tomaso Pegolotti (1666-1749)
Trattenimenti Armonici Opera Prima 1698
Opera Qvinta
rec. 2021, Sala capitolare of the Chiesa di S. Felicita, Florence, Italy
Tactus TC661604 [80]

The Italian label Tactus frequently releases discs with music that has not been recorded before, often even by composers many music lovers may not have heard of. The present disc is a case in point. Tomaso Pegolotti is a completely unknown quantity: this is the first time any of his music appears on disc. Not that there is much to be performed: the collection of twelve Trattenimenti Op 1 seems to be his only extant music. He himself announced a second opus, but that has apparently never been published, and that was largely due to events in his life.

Pegolotto has an entry in New Grove, consisting of only seven lines. The liner-notes in the booklet that accompanies this disc offer some additional information. In New Grove, the years of his birth and death are not given; these must have become known after the publication of the encyclopedia. What is important to know is that Pegolotti was not a professional composer, but rather a dilettante. He was born in Scandiano, near Modena, into a family traditionally associated with notarial activities. He followed in his father’s footsteps in that he was active in the field of both law and music; he first studied music and then law. He made a career which earned him a noble title, published a large study of local history and in 1698 published his Op 1, the Trattenimenti Armonici, which he dedicated to Prince Foresto d’Este, who in that same year had become marquis of Scandiano. He took Pegolotti into his service as vice-secretary and chancellor. However, Pegolotti’s fate turned due to the publication of a book in 1713, in which he defined certain autonomies of the local administration. This book “was so disliked by Foresto that the prince ended up ordering the requisition of all the copies; the author fell in sudden disgrace and found himself tangled up in a legal persecution which forced him into a lengthy defence until he found refuge among the Consorziali (Syndicates) of Scandiano, in whose protection he maintained a prominent role thanks to the expertise which was his trademark as much in the musical realm as in that of the law”. Due to this situation, the publication of a second collection of music did not materialize.

The Op 1 comprises twelve Trattenimenti armonici da camera a Violino solo, e Violoncello. Each opens with an introduzzione, which is followed by a capriccio (the odd-numbered pieces) or a balletto (the even-numbered works). The remaining two movements are dances. The first Trattenimento is an exception: it opens with a preludio in two sections (slow – fast), and the last two movements have tempo indications: grave and aria vivace. Four trattenimenti end with a menuet, and that makes Pergolotti one of the first Italian composers who wrote such dances for violin solo. The technical requirements of these pieces are considerable. The two instruments mentioned in the title are never required to play beyond third position, but these works do include passage-work and string crossings that may well have been beyond the capabilities of many amateurs of those days. Some sonatas also include fast leaps from one register to the other. There are only a few episodes with double-stopping and these are presented as alternatives, meaning that those players for whom they are too difficult, can avoid them.

In New Grove, Nona Pyron states: “As the cello part has no figures and participates on almost equal melodic terms with the violin, it seems that the works were intended as true duos; the etching of a cellist and violinist on the title-page strengthens this conjecture.” The performers had other ideas. “[A] choice was made to increase the number of instruments involved in the realization of the basso continuo, with the purpose of obtaining a bigger variety of timbres thanks to the help of the violoncello, the Baroque theorbo-guitar, harpsichord and organ (…).” The last movement of the Trattenimento X is even played as a harpsichord solo. Although there is probably no basic objection to this practice, I would have preferred a performance according to Pyron’s suggestions, as the combination of violin and cello is still rather rare in recordings of baroque repertoire. However, it is a minor issue.

There are good reasons to welcome this disc, as these pieces are well-written – and one may regret that Pegolotti did not have the chance to publish another set of pieces – and they are given fine performances by Opera Qvinta, which some years ago showed its credentials in a good recording of sonatas by Pandolfi Mealli (Tactus, 2017). This recording is of the same level, with lively and differentiated interpretations. Lovers of music for the violin should investigate this disc.

Johan van Veen

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Trattenimento Primo
Trattenimento Secondo
Trattenimento Terzo
Trattenimento Quarto
Trattenimento Quinto
Trattenimento Sesto
Trattenimento Settimo
Trattenimento Ottavo
Trattenimento Nono
Trattenimento Decimo
Trattenimento Undecimo
Trattenimento Duodecimo
[Giovanni Maria Bononcini (1642-1678)]
La Pegolotta