14 tracks - MP3 192 Kbps - RAR 110Mb
Admired by Leopold Mozart and a student of Giuseppe Tartini, Pietro Nardini (1722-1793) was an outstanding violinist. The music historian, Charles Burney, preferred Nardini's playing to Paganini's. Born in Fibiana, Italy, he held positions in Stuttgart and Württemberg before returning to Italy to become the Music Director of the court at Florence upon Tartini's death. Not surprisingly, many of his compositions feature the violin as a solo instrument, and these six string quartets, the only ones he ever wrote, place the violin front and center.
Noted for his cantabile playing style, his adagios in these works reflect that preference in their aria-like treatment. Two quartets are in three movements while the other four contain only two.
Written in A Major, Quartet No.1 opens the first movement `Allegro' with the lead violin initiating a brief, sprightly canon. In the development section, most of the melodic content is distributed among the three upper voices with the cello being relegated to supplemental accompaniment, often simple repeated notes. Marked `Comodo' or moderately, a prayerful 2nd movement follows, with the members of Quartetto Eleusi using a free form rhythm that allows the phrasing to flow like the breathing patterns of a singer. Counter melodies from the 2nd violin and the viola emerge as the movement shifts into minor, with the bass providing the harmonic underpinning.
The three movement Quartet No.2 is in C Major. After presenting the initial theme over repeated staccato notes in the bass line, a rousing orchestral unison drives the opening `Allegro' before coming to a surprisingly hushed ending. Without pause, and featuring a softly undulating accompaniment in the lower strings, a minor keyed 'Adagio' serves as a mournful respite before the final open cadence. A triple metered `Allegretto' contains a counter melody in the bass, and gives the cello a more prominent role.
In B Flat, the long flowing melodic lines of the 1st violin drift in and out of minor in the 1st movement `Allegro' of Quartet No.3. The viola supplies a restless counterpoint to the songlike structure of the primary voice. A pulsing `Andante' takes its rhythmic flow from the lead violin with the viola providing the opening thematic thrust. A solo for the cello and complex violin ornamentation give this final movement more character and individuality than in the 2 earlier quartets.
Quartet No.4 is in F Major and in three movements, unexpectedly beginning with the briefest of adagios as a seamless introduction to the merry `Allegro' that ensues. Bravura solo work from the 1st violin precedes an explosion of spirited ensemble interplay. The viola followed by the 2nd violin carry the counter melody in a wonderful response to the virtuoso lead voice. A sprightly minuet closes the piece with more emphasis on secondary themes in the lower strings.
Written in G Major, the 5th Quartet opens with a cheerful `Allegro'. After being led by the 1st violin, all four voices trip down the scale in unison, setting the stage for the some virtuosic interplay among the instruments. Shifting into minor, an elegiac `Andante legato' provides a platform for the violins to soar above the lower strings before concluding in a tender whisper.
The 6th quartet is composed in E Flat, and starts with a rousing `Allegro' driven by the urgency of repeated notes in the bass line. Unlike the early quartets, here the cello takes center stage for a brief, but appealing solo. The gentle finale with an indication of `Comodo' features interweaving of countermelodies using all four voices, but with the 1st violin predominating.
Although these quartets were published as a set in 1782, the earliest ones were probably written years before, perhaps as early as 1765. They delineate Nardini's development, always with the 1st violin as the lead voice, but with increasing prominence given to the other members of the quartet. The Italian based Quartetto Eleusi performs with spirit and skill, while the recording by Brilliant Classics is quite bright, often losing the bass line behind the upper strings.
Pietro Nardini's quartets are an excellent place to become acquainted with his work. Too long a member of the pantheon of overlooked composers of the early Classical era, he deserves more than to be just another forgotten Italian.
By bejart7092 on Amazon, April 29, 2013
String Quartet No. 1 in A
String Quartet No. 2 in C
String Quartet No. 3 in B flat
String Quartet No. 4 in F
String Quartet No. 5 in G
String Quartet No. 6 in E flat