Locatelli Concerti a Quattro, Op. 7

There is huge variety within Locatelli's Op. 7, and the these performers are at pains to deliver a whole spectrum of emotion

Locatelli Concerti a Quattro, Op. 7

The music of Locatelli seems to crop up quite a lot on Classical Explorer. In the time we've been around, this will be the third post on hjis music. Previously, we looked at a disc of his Violin Concertos  (Op. 3 Nos. 9, 11 and 12 on BIS), and his Christmas Concerto, Op. 1/8 on Naxos.

The three major composers of  concertos in the  Baroque are often thought of as Corelli,  Torelli and Vivaldi. Locatelli offers us a glimpse of the late Baroque. Like Geminiani, Locatelli was a pupil of Corelli, but Locatellu moved the concerto form into a more virtuoso space; one also has to acknowledge that Locatelli was more adventurous harmonically than Locatelli. To place Locatelli historically, his generation (the one after Corelli) also included such composers, in addition to Geminiani, as Meneghetti, Tessarini and Veracini.

The title of Locatelli's Op. 7 on the first edition was "Concerti a Quattro," which is used on this disc. By the time of its composition, Locatelli was a well-established and respected composer. And yet he was obviously keen not to reston his larels, as his experimentations with different styles in this opus, including moving toeards teh new gallant style, shows.  The diversity within the set might have confused listeners at the time (1741), but today we can clearly see the full extent of Locatelli's genius.

Locatelli's music is always moving. There's a profundity to his music, particularly the slow movements, that is stunning. Take this Largo from the third Concerto on tsh new Tactus disc:

The pieces on this disc, Locatelli's Op. 7, are labelled here as "Concerti a Quattro"; you may encounter them also as "Concerti grossi". By far the most famous of the set is No. 6, which carries the subtitle "Il Pianto d'Arianna". When Tafelmusik under violinist Elisa Citterio performed this piece at Milton Court in November 2019, I called this piece "basically a cantata for violin and orchestra". It really is a most remarkable piece, exploratory harmonically but s po poignant. It's also the longest of the set. Let's hear all of its four movements, below:

This piece has an astonishing depth. The title, "Il pianto d'Arianna" (Arianan's Lament) refers not only to the Greek legend of Theseus and Arianna/Ariadne as found in Ovid, but also to Monteverdi's 1608 Lamento d'Arianna. One can certainly hear the lachrymose nature of the gestures in the first movement's Andante opening; faster tempi are unsuccessful in banishing this mood. Interestingly, the first part (Grave) of the third movement hearkens back to Corelli, while the faster Allegro of that movement seems closer to the more progressive Vivaldi. The true lament, though, is the finale. Even the final chord - which is in the major - fails to lift the mood of mourning. It really is a remarkable piece; and to end the set with this is more remarkable still.

It is not like this expressivity came from nowhere, though, as that Largo quoted at the beginning of this post shows.  And even when there is playfulness, it is subsumed within overarching deeper emotions, as in some of the lighter moments in the opening movement of No. 4 (the soloist, Cesare Zanetti,is particularly expressive in her playing here, too):

There is huge variety within Locatelli's Op. 7, and the present performers (Ensemble Baroque "Carlo Abtonio Martini" directed by Natalie Arnoldi) are at pains to deliver a whole spectrum of emotion. Recommended for Baroque explorers. It's a nice idea to listen to the disc straight through, as that way one feels the run-up to that astonishing "Pianto d'Arianna". Its intensity will still shock though, I suspect.