Degli Antoni: 12 Sonatas Op 4

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Composer: Pietro Degli Antoni

Artists: Il Coro D’Arcadia, Alessandro Ciccolini (violin)

Here’s another composer plucked from the dusty libraries of obscurity by Brilliant Classics, so the music can be heard on its own merits, in new, well-researched editions and up-to-date, historically informed performances. Pietro degli Antoni (1639-1720) was born, died and made his career in Bologna, where he was maestro di capella in three of the city’s churches.

His activity as a composer embraced a wide range of genres, from instrumental music to vocal works for chamber performance, for church services and for the opera stage. Apart from a collection of sonatas and versetti for the organ (including a pastorale), his instrumental output comprises two collections of dances for the violin, and two sonata sets for solo violin and basso continuo that reveal a highly individual style which anticipates the brilliant style of Arcangelo Corelli, another Bolognan.

There are 12 sonatas in Op.4, all four-, five- and six-movement works – there are 58 tracks on the disc – which present vividly coloured snapshots of the Italian Baroque. Even most of the slow movements last barely a minute, enough to spin a melody over some figured bass chords, with titles such as affettuoso, aria posata, aria grave, and posato, revealing their debt to the vocal style. This adoption of recitative and aria is a distinctive trait typical of Degli Antoni’s work, one rarely found in his contemporaries, that justifies defining the works as cantate strumentali, or instrumental cantatas.

Il coro d’Arcadia is a Baroque group of musicians named after an 18th century ensemble in Rome, and led by the violinist Alessandro Ciccolini, who has also edited and reconstructed rare works by Vivaldi to be performed by the late Alan Curtis and his Complesso Barocco ensemble.

Pietro degli Antoni (1639-1720) was a founding member of the famous Accademia Filarmonica in his native Bologna, an institution bringing together professional musicians “so well united that they always play together, creating fine sound”. Many famous composers were member: Vitali, Tosi, Colonna, and later Corelli, Bononcini, Torelli and Bassani. Even Mozart, when visiting Bologna, became a member, being highly impressed by the sheer size and quality of the Accademia (..”the music was grave and majestic..” he wrote home).
Antoni was a prominent member of the Accademia, and was active as composer and chapel master in various churches, writing sacred vocal works, but also opera and chamber music.
This new recording presents Antoni’s “12 Sonatas Op. 4” for violin and basso continuo, multi-movement works, alternating allegros with rapid brilliant passage work with adagios full of “affects” and arioso style melodies.
Alessandro Ciccolini is one of Italy’s foremost baroque violinists. A composer and editor as well, he reconstructed Vivaldi’s opera Montezuma, as recorded by Alan Curtis for DG. He successfully recorded Albinoni’s Opus 4 for Brilliant Classics.

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