I love music.

I write about the music I like and have purchased for the benefit of better understanding it and sharing my preferences with others.

Secrets of the Baroque Violin

"The Secrets of [the] Baroque Violin" sounds like an interesting title for a recording (or book). It conjures memories of movies like The Red Violin, where, perhaps, we finally learn of what more scandalous things a famous violin was privy too, as if it was a person who had lived through the ages, with great stories (secrets) to tell. Or maybe I am reading too much into the title. The cover doesn't even show a violin, but instead one of my very favorite baroque violinists, Mr. Enrico Onofri. I've written on this site before how my best concert experience ever was a recital by Mr. Onofri given in the late 1990s at the Cleveland Museum of Art for violin with continuo. The fare was early Italian sonatas, which of course he has gone on to record with Il Giardino Armonico and his Imaginarium Ensemble. This is Onofri's real solo album, accompanied in a work by Telemann, the Gulliver Suite, which I've come to know through a recording by Andrew Manze. The tracklist is an interesting one; it seems to be a "late baroque favorites" type of thing, ending with an earlier work by Bassano. It opens with an arrangement of Bach's BWV 565 for organ (also recorded by Manze); the Didone Abbandonata sonata by Tartini; three Telemann solo phantasies for solo violin, a second Tartini sonata (A major), and the Biber Passacaglia in G minor. He announces the story headings in the Tartini work, which I don't much care for in terms of the music, but I love getting to hear what a performer sounds like (as much as I like watching concert videos, too, to see what they perform like). The Bach is well-done. He phrases it all very well. Combine with that a much nicer violin sound than Manze's, to my taste, and it's my new favorite rendition of this organ piece for solo violin. By the Tartini, I'm growing weary of the sound on the record. To my ears it sounds as if the recording space was just a little too small; the reverb sounds too present in the mixture. When Onofri speaks, his voice is well-captured and is supported in the recording space. It works okay with speakers, but for me it's a little too closed-in of a sound on headphones. The Tartini is well-interpreted; I like how he takes his time with some of phrases, he's not rushed by any virtual metronome. Telemann is an interesting choice as he isn't especially remembered for his violin repertoire. Yet, he left us solo works for violin and for flute, and the music chosen is attractive enough. Despite them being less well-known, Telemann's ability to mix national styles earns our attention with these pieces. The faster of the movements are my favorites, but I appreciate Onofri not "writing off" the slow ones; again, our ability to hear him breathe presents us a glimpse of the human side behind the performance. The Gulliver pieces are interesting, but not my favorite part of the recording. That said, they are well-performed although balance is sometimes challenged by the recording space. Track 22 from the Tartini A-major sonata is a favorite of mine, and again, Onofri's musicality comes across so well. He's technically gifted, and plays a beautiful instrument. But above that, he's a master at the interpretive side of baroque repertoire. I'm not sure what the secret is. Maybe the secret is there's more than Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin? Like Bach's great Chaconne for solo violin, the Biber work presented here, as the 15th Mystery Sonata of the Rosary is a solo piece. It's placed on the 9th track, an odd position, real rare pearl amid the lighter fare of Telemann and Tartini. When the time comes, I know I'll relish Onofri's version of Bach. But for now, the secrets await. This is a strong and enjoyable recital of solo violin repertoire from the Baroque by one of our strongest living interpreters of the instrument, played in its historical configuration.


Devil's Trill (and other sonatas)

Something Else: Röyksopp's Night Out