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Intimate Chamber Music by Italians “Out of Italy”

Grand Canal in Venice
Canaletto / National Gallery London
Grand Canal in Venice

A huge number of Italian musicians left their country in the 18th century, bringing the exquisite tradition of chamber music with them, and now four acclaimed artists celebrate this exiled music on WCRB’s CD of the Week.

The new recording, Out of Italy, is an intimate affair, featuring chamber music by Italians who headed north and west in the 18th century while Italy was consumed by its fanatical love of opera. It’s wonderful to read conductor and scholar Reinhard Goebel’s colorful and concise introduction to the circumstances of composers like Geminiani, Vivaldi, and Lanzetti, who saw the art of composition declining at home, and brought their talents to other European capitals.

This CD finds its composers mostly in London, comfortably integrated into inspired societies of painters, actors, and music dealers. The music is brought to life by four acclaimed musicians: baroque cellists Phoebe Carrai and Beiliang Zhu; lutenist Charles Weaver; and harpsichordist Avi Stein. Together they have struck upon a wonderfully personal and emotive style of playing. The opening of Geminiani’s Sonata in F (track 8) feels like a confession – lamenting, sobbing, whispering, and ultimately regaining a strength of spirit. The CD is engineered to offer an up-close sound, enough to give the sense that you’re in the middle of the encounter. The dancing of the cellists’ bows creates a visceral effect.

You’ll find pieces here by lesser-known composers, such as Cervetto, Lanzetti, and Cirri. A more familiar name on this album is an extraordinary contribution from Vivaldi: his 6th Sonata, RV 46, which begins with a searching single note that blossoms, then wanders, then continues on its quest (track 12). It features a signature slow movement (track 14) whose aching dissonances and melting half-steps will stop you in your tracks. Vivaldi can capture the feel of despair in very little time. But sunlight comes, and the players are in perfect sync for a consoling and tender dance at the end.

It’s a joy to discover music by Antoniotto and Cervetto, and to be reminded of the communicative powers of Francesco Geminiani. Out of Italy will take you on a touching journey through exquisitely crafted music that goes directly to the heart.

Listen to a track from the album:

For more information and to purchase this album, visit ArkivMusic.