Concerto in D, TWV 54 D3
Johann Pisendel:
Concerto movements for violin and strings; and 2 oboes, bassoon and strings
J.S. Bach
Concerto movement in D, BWV 1045
Giuseppe Brescianello
Concerto for violin, bassoon and strings
Concerto movement, RV 745; Concerto for strings, RV 158
Johann Fasch
Concerto in D FaWV LD3

La Serenissima
Adrian Chandler Director/violin

Signum Classics SIGCD 602
Full Price

The Review

If you are looking for a baroque version of Al Pacino and references to horses’ heads under the heading of The Godfather, you can forget it. The Godfather here is derived from the convoluted reasoning that all these composers knew and were in some way ‘godfathers’ to each other’s music, as represented by the violinist Johann Pisendel, who was friends with all of them.

Pisendel is the glue that makes sense of this odd but engaging selection. He was two years younger than Bach and Handel and six younger than Telemann (who preceded him as a student at Leipzig University). As a musician at the Saxon court in Dresden from 1712, at the age of 25, Pisendel had the opportunity to travel widely in Europe. Four years later he took the opportunity to study for nearly a year with Vivaldi in Venice while his Prince was enjoying the Grand Tour.

Pisendel was clearly an extraordinary player and there are good reasons to think that many of Bach’s most difficult violin works were written with him in mind. Pisandel and Fasch, who was his opposite number in Prague and Anhalt-Zerbst, swapped music by post frequently, though too little of either’s has survived. The one interloper in this close circle gathered by Adrian Chandler is Brescianello, who was based in Stuttgart but composed in the same vein.

La Serenissima is an ensemble that has its office in the farm at Wootton in Oxfordshire that used to be the home of the European Union Baroque Orchestra and specialises in the rarities of the baroque period, edited by Chandler with consummate dedication. He also plays the violin very well, if without so much decorative flourish as some of his contemporaries. I suspect that Pisendel and Vivaldi would have indulged themselves a little more in their own performances. In Chandler’s hands the tone is respectful but just the wrong side of the balance between freedom and security – the string concertos need more playful sunshine.

The big number concertos – those with lots of trumpets and wind by Telemann, Bach and Fasch – have terrific zest, though, and the players of La Serenissima combine excellent tuning with incisive precision. Fasch emerges as a composer well able to hold his own with his more famous friends.