Per la notte di Natale: Italian Christmas Concertos
The period instrument Danish group Concerto Copenhagen has appeared on a variety of labels; they offer impeccably polished, beautiful performances of the most famous of instrumental Christmas music here under the direction of Lars Ulrik Mortensen.
The idea of the "Christmas Concerto" is native to Italy. Nice to have such a generous selection of them!. Arcangelo Corelli, the King of the Concerto grosso, is our starting point. The Adagio third movement gives an idea of the restful nature of this piece (notwithstanding the central, brief, Allegro passage):
Another Christmas Concerto in G minor comes from Giuseppe Torelli (1658-1709); just a third the length of the Corelli, this is a pastorale for Christmas. Torelli's concertos formed an important precurseor for Vivaldi, but, as this one proves, they hold much beuaty themselves. And I'm sure I'm not alone in hearing a pre-echo of The Four Seasons in the staccato chords of the central Largo. It makes sense, then, to follow with a Violin Concerto by Vivaldi himself, that in F major, RV 270, "Il riposo per il S. S. Natale," with Fredrik Fromm as soloist. Perhaps the seasonal subject matter results in the unusally gentle first movement:
Less familiar, surely, will be the name of Francesco Manfredini (1684-1762), who studied violin with Torelli at Bologna, but his Christmas Concerto is a piece of much beauty, an implicit invitation to explore more of his Op. 3 set:
But it is Pietro Locatelli (1685-1764) who is the real treasure here. I have not heard a single dud piece by him. His Christmas Concerto is in F minor, concluding with a gently rocking Pastorale of great loveliness:
A beautifully performed and recorded disc, perfect for this time of year!