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Capella Agostino Steffani – Sonata for Orchestra No. 1 in E minor – Lajos Ravatkay Conductor – Francesco Venturini (1675 – 1745)

by Luca

Sonata for Orchestra No. 1 in E minor:

I. Ouverture 0:08
II. Allemanda 4:02
III. Aria 7:41
IV. Gavotta 10:15
V. Menuet 1-2 12:17

Capella Agostino Steffani
Lajos Ravatkay Conductor

Francesco Venturini (1675 – 1745).

A style borrowing from the Italian and the French but with its distinctive voice.

Contrary to what you might be expecting, Francesco Venturini (c1675-1745) is not some justly forgotten two-a-penny Italian Baroque concerto composer: in fact he was born in Brussels and worked for the future George I of England at the Electoral court in Hanover, where he would have come into contact (if briefly) with the younger Handel. In a weird counterpoint to the old story of Handel appeasing the King after his arrival in London with the Water Music, Venturini reportedly angered him with a valedictory cantata on the text “Lord, remember me when thou comest unto thy kingdom”. He must have been forgiven, however, as he was later appointed Electoral Kapellmeister. This disc presents works from Venturini’s only published collection, issued around 1715. Popular in their time, they are little heard today, which is a shame as they are fully deserving of attention. The dominant influence is French — half the “concertos” are suites — but Italian trends are evident, above all in some soloistic concerto-style movements. Venturini does not just throw the Baroque period’s two competing national styles together, however, but combines them in a manner entirely personal to him, full of cheerful strength and character. If you enjoy the orchestral sound world of Telemann, Zelenka or Handel’s Op 3, these lively and attractive concertos, richly scored for an ensemble of oboes, bassoons and strings riddled with solos, duets and trios, will surely appeal. Venturini, furthermore, need fear nothing from the comparison.
Basle-based band La Cetra are good advocates on their debut disc, bringing light and energy to the music and treating it with affection and warmth rather than tearing into it as some groups do. Solos are accomplished and musical, not least from director/violinist David Plantier. A firm recommendation, then.

Lindsay Kemp, The GRAMOPHONE