Palladian Ensemble

The Devil's Trill: Sonatas by Giuseppe Tartini

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It appears that, with Linn's The Devil's Trill, the former Palladian Ensemble shortened its name to just Palladians. With the departure of longtime recorder soloist Pamela Thorby, the quartet was suddenly re-designated a trio, but The Devil's Trill finds it a quartet once again with the addition of harpsichordist Silas Standage. The new name, according to the group, is designed "[to allow] more artistic freedom for players to come and go as required," and that's certainly fair, although one might wonder what effect this might have on their usual, seamless ensemble blend. To judge from The Devil's Trill, not much, so far. The core group of Rodolfo Richter, Susanne Heinrich, and William Carter hold together like glue, and the addition of Standage discreetly adds a level of color to what was already well put in place with the Palladian Ensemble of old.

This program is centered on the work of reclusive eighteenth century violinist Giuseppe Tartini and the one work of his that gained some traction in the literature: his Violin Sonata in G minor, Op. 1/4, also known as "The Devil's Trill" (Tartini called it "The Devil's Sonata"). The disc is not exclusively devoted to Tartini, as it also includes a sonata by a violinist Tartini idolized: Francesco Maria Veracini. In the notes, William Carter rather whimsically comments, "the powerful forces of market distribution [...] make us reluctant to adulterate our Tartini product with too much foreign material." Nevertheless, the Veracini is probably the most outstanding highlight of the disc; Richter really digs into the solo part with gusto and the rest of the group weighs in with remarkable ensemble flexibility, ebbing and flowing easily and naturally with each twist and turn taken by the soloist. This sonata alone is worth the price of admission, and a reading of a single movement from a Tartini sonata in E minor for Richter and Heinrich alone -- reflecting Tartini's long association with cellist Antonio Vandini -- is also noteworthy. The only thing here that doesn't seem to pan out is the title work, "The Devil's Trill" itself. Rodolfo Richter's interpretation of the solo part seems rather listless and deliberately dour in the matter of intonation; perhaps this is a reflection of Tartini's own recorded comments about the piece and its inspiration, but whatever it was, this seems like Tartini on automatic pilot. The rest of the disc is fine, and as always, Linn's Hybrid Multichannel sound is great. While it may seem absurd to suggest that Palladians might consider adulterating its Tartini product enough to shake out "The Devil's Trill," such procedure might have cured this patient.

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