Tuesday, March 1, 2016

2L Recordings' Tartini-Secondo Natura

Who is Giuseppe Tartini?

I ask this question because I've never heard of this composer before. I'd like to think I'm knowledgeable about most of the classical composers who bridge the gap between the Baroque era and the Classical era, but this prolific gentleman, who wrote 135 violin concertos and 200 sonatas during the early and mid 18th century, is a pleasant surprise in one of those where-have-you-been-all-my-life sort of ways. On the 2L Recordings' website, it's mentioned that Tartini's music is rarely performed today--it's considered somewhat "enigmatic--impalpable and mysterious." I agree wholeheartedly, which is why I responded so favorably to this new Blu-ray audio disc.

Playing it for the first time, shortly before I headed off to CES, I was mesmerized by this music and the way it seemed to expand on more common baroque themes. But instead of offering a more direct, streamlined version of these ornate musical motifs that were preferred by his contemporaries, Tartini ventured further away from the mainstream with strange and challenging tangents that will remind you of compositions created 100 to 150 years later.

Part of the reason the three Tartini pieces on this disc are so intriguing is the choice of instrumentation, with Sigurd Imsen using a baroque violin and Hardanger fiddle (which has an open, woody and resonant sound compared to conventional violins), Tormod Dalen playing a baroque cello and Hans Knut Sveen sitting at the cembalo (a German harpsichord). Normally a more conventional trio would approach this music in a more straightforward manner, but these rarer instruments have such a delightfully sonorous sound that they can venture further away from Tartini's beautiful melodies and extract an unusually exotic result. In addition, the violin features a scordatura tuning, which means that it's purposely altered to include "non-conventional" notes that combine the familiar with the experimental.

With all these novel and fascinating elements in place, Tartini becomes so much more than a well-recorded program of chamber music. I finally got around to reading up on Tartini, and it turns out he's not held in the same high regard as fellow composers such as Handel and Hayden and, of course, Mozart. Mr. Tartini was known for his writings on nature as much, if not more, than he was known for his music. That seems to suggest two things--either that means more scholarly writers than I will criticize me for enjoying this music so much, or that the 2L magic has elevated this album into something special. I'm leaning toward the later, since I get goosebumps whenever I play it.

This is the disc I really wanted to bring to CES, the kind of disc filled with memorable, extraordinary music recorded by 2L's Morten Lindberg with his innovative technologies. But alas, this disc is only offered in the Blu-ray format, and the digital source we used at the show doesn't do Blu-ray. That's too bad for me--I was gobsmacked by this beautiful, wondrous music and I know that show attendees would have loved hearing it.

So who is Tartini? If you have the means to play Blu-ray audio discs on a high-quality audio system, you need to find out. Of all the 2L discs I've been reviewing over the last few weeks, this one is my favorite for pure musical enjoyment. Highly recommended.

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