Wednesday, January 14, 2015 | Review on timesofmalta.com
Extravaganza in what has become part of Malta’s cultural calendar
by Albert Storace
The late afternoon concert at the Manoel made me ponder for the nth time how lucky we are to have such a jewel as this theatre. More so when one listens to music by Italian composers who, except for Alessandro Scarlatti and Arcangelo Corelli, were alive and well when the theatre opened its doors in 1732.
Besides, this music was performed by Italian musicians directed by Marcello Di Lisa. His 14-strong Concerto dei Cavalieri took the audience along a musical grand tour of Italy such as that taken by the aristocrats of the 18th century. They always visited Venice, Bologna, Rome and Naples, and, being great centres of musical studies where different styles were generated and developed, they spread their influence far and wide.
Even though Corelli was just seven years older than the Sicilian Alessandro Scarlatti, the latter came more under the influence of Corelli. This was borne out in the performance of Scarlatti’s Concerto Grosso No. 3 in F major.
Corelli, who perfected the genre, was the composer whose music opened the concert, namely the Concerto Grosso in D major, Op.6, No. 4. This established the performers’ highly stylish delivery, crispness, smooth phrasing and dynamic vitality, traits which prevailed throughout the concert.
In the Concerto for Strings in G minor, Op. 2, No. 3 by Porpora (d. 1768), featuring violinists Antonio De Secondi and Paolo Perrone, one had a fine example of a work of the Neapolitan school.
The last to die of the concert’s featured composers and given his innovative streak, it is not surprising that here Porpora looks far ahead, and ends this work in a highly elegant flourish.
The other Corelli work heard was the famous Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 6, No. 8 ‘fatto per la notte di Natale’, the Christmas flavour coming out in this lovely work’s concluding pastorale.
There was also a touch of Giovanni Bononcini, who was so closely associated with Bologna. This came with the Sinfonia a tre in D, Op. 4, No. 12. The soloists here were again De Secondi and Perrone (with some highly virtuoso exchanges) and cellist Giovanna Barbati.
Three works performed were by the quintessentially Venetian Vivaldi.
His Concerto in B minor for 4 violins and strings, RV 580 had soloists Francesca Vicari, Perrone, De Secondi and Rossella Croce pitting their musical wits and prowess in lively exchanges.
Then, reduced to half the complement and without Di Lisi’s direction, Vicari took a bit of a lead in the brief two-movement Sinfonia in B minor, ‘al Santo Sepolcro’, RV 169.
She was also one of the soloists, with De Secondi in the closing and perfectly balanced Concerto for 2 violins in A major, Op. 3, No. 5, RV 519.
The enthusiastic audience would notlet go and an encore ensued: the first movement from Vivaldi’s La verità in cimento.
More clamouring brought about the same work’s second movement.