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8.553891 - MANFREDINI: Concerti Grossi Op. 3, Nos. 1-12
Francesco Manfredini was born in Pistoia in 1684, the son of a trombonist. He studied in Bologna, taking violin lessons from Giuseppe Torelli, a leading figure in the development of the concerto grosso, with its small group of solo instruments, and of the solo concerto. Like Torelli, Manfredini also studied composition with Giacomo Antonio Perti, maestro di cappella at the Basilica of San Petronio from 1696, the year in which the orchestra of San Petronio was, for the moment, dissolved.
Before 1700 Manfredini was in Ferrara, serving as a violinist at the Church of San Spirito, but in 1704 he returned to Bologna, employed again in the orchestra of San Petronio then re-established. He also became a member of the Accademia Filarmonica and in the same year published a set of twelve chamber sonatas under the title Concertini per camera, Op. 1. In 1709 he published in Bologna a further set of instrumental compositions, twelve Sinfonie da chiesa, Op. 2, in fact church sonatas that complement the earlier chamber sonatas. From 1711 it seems that Manfredini was in Monaco, in the service of Prince Antoine I, who had come to the throne of the principality in 1701 and had been a pupil of Lully, whose conductor's stick he had inherited. Manfredini is mentioned in Monaco court records in 1712 and the Concerti, Op. 3, published in Bologna in 1718, are dedicated to the Prince, who also had in his library copies of Manfredini's Sinfonie, Op. 2. The exact length of his stay in Monaco and the nature of his connection with the court is uncertain. The Prince, however, served as godfather to Manfredini's son Antonio Francesco and four other children were seemingly born to the composer in Monaco. By 1727, however, he was again in Pistoia, as maestro di cappella at the Cathedral, a position he retained until his death in 1762. His son Vincenzo, later maestro di cappella of the Italian opera in St Petersburg, was born in Pistoia in 1737 and another son, Giuseppe, had a career as a castrato singer.
Concerto No. 1 of the Opus 3 set has a first movement that allows dynamic contrast without specific use of the concertino solo group. The 12/8 second movement has a concluding echo effect, while the final duple-metre Allegro provides a rhythmic contrast.
The first movement of Concerto No. 2 also ends with a slow section, before its repetition, and there is a short solo ending to the second movement. The concerto ends with a 3/8 Allegro, a contrast to the preceding common-time movements.
Triple metre marks the second, slow movement of Concerto No. 3, framed by faster outer movements, the first making much use of a descending arpeggio figure and a third marked Presto, like the even more energetic final movement.
Concerto No. 4 is also in four movements, the first an Allegro marked by dotted rhythms and the second a thirteen-bar Adagio. The following 12/8 Presto makes a contrast, with its gigue rhythm, to the final Allegro.
There is a brief slow section to start Concerto No. 5, followed by a 12/8 Allegro in which a solo violin makes its first appearance, accompanied by basso continuo, after the entry in imitation of first and second violins. The Andante e piano sempre allows a solo violin rapid broken triad patterns over a repeated accompaniment rhythm. The solo violin again has an important part to play in the final Allegro.
There is a similar procedure in Concerto No. 6, with relatively extended passages that give prominence to a solo violin. Three Adagio bars are followed by a Presto, a solo violin taking pride of place throughout, with its rapid arpeggios. The final triple-metre movement includes solo arpeggio passages, an element of display.
The first movement of Concerto No. 7 again allows the solo violin a chance for technical virtuosity. A common-time Adagio, with its own solo passages, is succeeded by a 3/8 Presto.
There is a seven-bar slow introduction to Concerto No. 8, followed by au Allegro. An Adagio that allows antiphonal response between first and second violins leads to a 1218 Presto, with slow closing bars preceding a triple-metre second Presto.
Two solo violins open Concerto No. 9 with an Adagio, followed by a Presto shared between solo instruments and the whole ensemble. An A major Largo precedes an Allegro that makes continued antiphonal use of the two solo violins.
Concerto No. 10 starts with a slow movement that makes immediate contrast between the solo instruments and the full ensemble. There are imitative entries between first and second violins in the energetic Allegro, followed by a similar procedure between the solo instruments. The ensuing Largo provides a moment of respite before the final 3/8 Presto.
A familiar arpeggio figuration marks the opening ritornello of Concerto No. 11, continued in the antiphonal passage that follows for the two solo violins of the concertino group. More technically demanding writing for the solo instruments follows, in turn. The Adagio modulates from E flat major to a major, the dominant chord that serves to introduce a final 12/8 Allegro in the original key of C minor, initiated by the two solo violins, in imitation one of the other.
The set ends with a Christmas Concerto, on a pattern familiar from Torelli and well known from the use Corelli made of the form, finally published in 1713. The concerto opens with a Pastorale, an evocation, by means of the pastoral Siciliano dance, of the shepherds at the birth of Christ. There is a Largo that modulates from A minor and a final Allegro that restores the original key of C major in lively imitation between the solo instruments, with a final passage that again suggests the pastoral in its use of a sustained pedal-note, a bagpipe drone.
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