Born in Bergamo in 1695, Pietro Locatelli is seen by some as the natural successor to Corelli (the two composers were present at Rome at the same time). He travels took him to Venice (via Mantua), where he may have met Vivaldi, and also where he wrote his historically significant L'Arte del violino.
Locatelli has cropped up on Classical Explorer before, most significantly on the Naxos disc of Christmas Concertos where we heard his Concerto grosso in F minor, Op. 1/8; but we also mentioned him in connection with the group Tafelmusik, and also in connection to Geminiani's Op. 2.
Historically, these violin conceros were a vitally significant stage in the creation of the archetype of the Romantic violin virtioso as epitomised by Paganini. But that's only one way to view them; as works within themselves, they are of huge stature. And Ilya Gringolts certainly believes so, if these performances are anything to go by.
The design of the concertos is interesting in that the first and final movements of all three include a solo Capriccio (Caprice) of near-unprecedented difficulty. They contain octaves, tenths, double and triple stopping (playing chords on the violin, in other words) and even double trills. Playing on a 1770 gut string Ferdinando Gagliano violn from around 1770, Gringolts absolutely nails those Capriccios. Here's the final movement of the first concerto on the disc, the G-Major, Op. 3/9. Listen to how high Gringolts goes during this Capriccio:
The Capriccios might on the surface seem to be "cadenzas"; but they are far more than that, complete statements within themselves. Fascinating to hear how they sit so beautifully with in the pieces. Here's that of the A-Major Concerto, Op. 3/11, and just listen to the suave orchestral close to the movement from the excellent Finnish Baroque Orchestra:
... or listen to the first movement of Op. 3/12 to see how he integrates it here:
The pieces are from a sequence of twelve concertos that form part of Locatelli's L'Arte del violino. The disc takes its title from the final concerto, Op. 3/12 in D-Major, subtitled in both Italian and Latin, "Il Labirinto Armonico. Facilus adituis, difficilis existus" (The harmonic labyrinth. Easy entrance, difficult exit).
The excellence of the Finnish Baroque Orchestra, with a contunuo group that includes a lute, is never in doubt; neither is Gringolts' stunning virtuosity. But it is Locatelli that leaves the most lasting impression, just as it should be ...