Tommaso Antonio Vitali

Chaconne for violin & continuo in G minor (spurious)

    Description by Michael Jameson

    It is not clear exactly how this demonic and exacting series of bravura variations came to be attributed to Italian Baroque composer Tommaso Antonio Vitali (1663-1745). There can be no doubt at all that Vitali had no hand whatever in the writing of this Chaconne, since scholars have found nothing even remotely similar to it within Vitali's catalog of authenticated works. Moreover, any suggestion that this might be a lost Vitali composition can be similarly dismissed, for there are not even any demonstrable stylistic affinities between the Chaconne and other pieces that have been reliably ascribed to Vitali, in particular a series of 12 sonatas for violin and keyboard. The Chaconne first came to the attention of violinists when it was published as Vitali's work in a collection of pieces (Die Hoch Schule des Violinspiels) edited by the virtuoso and close friend of Mendelssohn, Ferdinand David, and issued in 1867. What is known is that the stern and majestic G minor theme was extensively revised and made progressively more difficult in each successive variation, transforming it into a gripping tour de force of staggering technical difficulty. For this reason, it was selected as the opening work on the bill when Jascha Heifetz presented his debut recital at Carnegie Hall, and indeed, one could hardly imagine a more impressive curtain-raiser. It is just as unclear whether David (who was highly regarded for his advocacy of Baroque music, largely ignored throughout the nineteenth century) wrote the Chaconne himself or possibly assembled it from a variety of motifs by obscure figures of the high Italian Baroque. But this convoluted puzzle doesn't end there. Another violin virtuoso, Frenchman Léopold Charlier, produced an alternative -- and if possible, even more taxing -- edition in 1911. Charlier not only enhanced the technical demands of the violin part, but also made significant improvements and added new harmonizations to the piano part, whilst reordering the sequence of the variations so that they become progressively more complex as this astounding piece unfolds.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Audite AUDITE 95621
    2016 Azica Records ACD 71305
    2015 Nimbus Alliance NI 6299
    2014 IDIS IDIS 6688
    2013 Decca
    2013 MSR Classics MS 1460
    2012 Testament SBT 21475
    2012 Red Priest RP 011
    2011 Art Act AR 001
    2011 Gega New GD 359
    2011 OUR Recordings 6220604
    2010 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 5099945852
    2010 Decca
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099996700
    2008 Telarc Distribution 80695
    2008 Biddulph Recordings 80224
    2007 Philips 4428240
    2006 Doremi Records 7874-9
    2005 IDIS 6443/4
    2005 Archipel 0306
    2004 Cascavelle 3068
    2004 Testament 1343
    2003 Naxos 8555960
    2003 Opus KURA 2031
    2001 113
    2001 RCA 74321 75479-2
    2000 Malibran Music 150
    1999 Biddulph Recordings 055
    1999 Grammofono 2000 78917
    1999 Strings 99390
    1999 IDIS 290
    1999 Strings 99348
    1999 EMI Classics 56791B
    1998 EMI Music Distribution 66873
    1997 BMG 61755
    1997 Melodiya 40710
    1995 EMI Music Distribution 65743
    1995 Doron Music 3009
    1995 Lotos 9
    1993 Pearl 9401
    1993 EMI Music Distribution 64830
    1993 Pearl 9981
    Fone 9602
    Monitor (World) 72009
    JAV Recordings 118
    Testament 1258
    EMI Classics 98667
    BMG 68368
    Monopoly 2061
    Philips 420818
    Pearl 9460
    Meadows School of the Arts