Notes 60.2 (2003) 534-538
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Giuseppe Torelli. Concerti musicali, Opus 6. Edited by John G. Suess. (Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era, 115.) Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, Inc., c2002. [Acknowledgments, p. vi; introd., p. vii-xiv; 3 plates; score, 98 p.; crit. report, p. 99-103. ISBN 0-89579-496-9. $48.]
Giuseppe Torelli. Sinfonia in D (G. 21) for 1/2 Trumpet(s), Strings & Continuo. Editor: Carolyn Sanders; piano reduction: Ann Knipschild. (Italian 17th & 18th Century Sinfonias & Sonatas for Trumpets & Strings, 66.) Monteux, France: Musica Rara; Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel, c1999. [Notes and crit. commentary, 2 p.; piano reduction, p. 4-14; and 6 parts. MR 2240a. €15.] Score and orchestral parts available on hire.
Considering that Giuseppe Torelli's Concerti musicali, op. 6 (1698), is indisputably one of the three most historically significant concerto publications of the late baroque (the other two are Arcangelo Corelli's opus 6 and Antonio Vivaldi's opus 3), it has been remarkably poorly served by modern historians, editors, and performers. Franz Giegling's Giuseppe Torelli: Ein Beitrag zur Entwicklungsgeschichte des italienischen Konzerts (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1949) excludes opus 6 from its catalog of works, and in its main text refers to the collection only in passing, with acknowledgment to Francesco Vatielli, Italian musicologist and specialist in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Italian instrumental music; it is quite clear that the author never set eyes on the Concerti musicali. For Giegling, opus 6 represents merely a staging post between Torelli's earliest published concertos—the six that share opus 5 (1692) with the same number of sinfonias—and those of his mature and relatively well-known opus 8 (1709, published posthumously in the year of the composer's death).
For Arthur Hutchings, whose stimulating survey The Baroque Concerto (New York: W. W. Norton; London: Faber & Faber, 1961) guided the curiosity of a whole generation of Anglo-American readers, Torelli (1658-1709) is a composer more historically significant than artistically appealing. "For all his importance and competence," Hutchings writes (p. 95), "Torelli rarely wrote a movement of striking beauty and originality, and most musicians would be willing to lose the bulk of his work if thereby they could save the best of Albicastro or Muffat."
Fortunately for our man, he wrote music for trumpet in bulk, the result being that the modern revival of his music, promoted by brass players rather than scholars, has been spearheaded by his works for trumpet and strings (sometimes also with oboes), of which over thirty survive. In comparison, Torelli's music for strings alone has lagged behind. Opus 8, once dignified by a "Vox Box" (Twelve Concertos, op. 8, Pro Musica String Orchestra/Rolf Reinhardt, Vox DL113 , 3 LPs), has never been published complete in a modern edition, and only its "Christmas" Concerto (no. 6) is still frequently heard. Only a few items from opus 5 have been published, although an excellent recording of the full set exists (Sinfonie e concerti op. V, Insieme Strumentale di Roma/Giorgio Sasso, Stradivarius 33461 , CD). The real Cinderella, however, is opus 6, which is why this new edition arrives so opportunely.
What is, then, the special claim to fame of this set? Although the opus 6 concertos advance little in scale and structure beyond their opus 5 predecessors, their style is perceptibly further removed from the heritage of the trumpet sonata. As the composer's preface explains to a public as yet not fully familiar with the nascent concerto genre, all the parts may freely be doubled orchestrally. Consequently, the musical language is one that privileges weight of tone in a sonorous acoustic such as the one with which Torelli had earlier been familiar at the basilica of San Petronio in Bologna. The imitative play and dialogue between the instruments are forthright rather than intricate, and the display writing for the violins (occasionally also for obbligato cello and even for the viola, Torelli's own instrument in the San Petronio orchestra) is busy rather than challenging, taking as...