Bojan Čičić / Illyria Consort

Giovanni Giornovich: 'London' Concertos

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The violinist Giovanni Giornovich is a largely obscure figure, made even more obscure by the difficulty of searching for information on his life and work: he was born Ivan Mane Jarnovic, apparently of Croat background, and his name was rendered in Italian, French, and English in a great variety of ways. He may have been born at sea, he grew up in Palermo, and he became one of the first wave of violin virtuosi, gaining fame in France and fleeing to England during the French Revolution and finally to St. Petersburg to work for Catherine the Great. In London, where these concertos were written, he was a teacher of George Bridgetower, the black original dedicatee of Beethoven's "Kreutzer" Sonata. Giornovich knew Haydn in London and seems to have absorbed something from him, although it was from the expansive forms of the young Haydn rather than the concise Haydn of the London years. Giornovich stretched out Classical-era forms with Baroque figuration that allowed him to strut his stuff as a violinist, and although there's little logic to the compositions here, there are charming moments. There's an elegant set of variations for solo violin on a popular operatic tune that must have been a real crowd-pleaser, and some fetchingly sentimental slow movements: sample the "Amoroso con espressione" slow movement of the Violin Concerto No. 14 in A major, a work that also seems to reflect the influence of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219. Croatian-British violinist Bojan Čičić, with his own Illyria Consort, gets the odd mix of sentimentality and virtuosity in these works, although the watery, over-live sound will not be to all tastes. Recommended for anyone interested in the still-neglected field of the early violin virtuoso.

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