Giovanni Battista Vitali is finally getting his due — thanks to this series from Tactus. The Italico Splendore Ensemble has been steadily making its way through Vitali’s published compositions. This release — the sixth — features the Soante a due violini, Op. 9, published in 1684.
These are sonatas da chiesa (church sonatas). At the time, there was a clear distinction between this and the sonata da camera (chamber sonata). The sonata da chiesa is about providing contemplative music.
The form usually begins with a slow prelude, a faster fugal movement, a long slow movement, and a faster tempo finale. Those faster movements are reigned in, though. They provide contrast to the slow movements but still encourage serenity.
The Italico Splendore Ensemble performs these works beautifully. They linger lovingly over the slow passages and play the rapid movements with precise clarity.
Special note must be made of the ensemble’s scholarship. No surviving copies of the Opus 9 publication remain. This music was reconstructed from the original manuscripts, making informed decisions when evaluating apparent errors or unclear notations.
The recording has just the right amount of ambiance. There’s a little reverb (as one would expect for music played in a large cathedral). But it’s not so much that it muddies the music — critical for the contrapuntal passages.
Giovanni Battista Vitali: Sonate a due violini, Op. 9
Tactus TC 632207