Saturday, August 11, 2012

Lombardini Sirmen: Six Violin Concertos Op. 3

The rediscovery of music composed by women continues to yield interesting compositions erased by male-dominated history. This two-CD set offers a set of attractive six violin concertos from the third quarter of the eighteenth century, composed by the almost unknown Maddalena Laura Lombardini Sirmen, a student of Tartini who became a star violinist in her own right. Her music was published in London and Amsterdam, and her career as a performer took her to major European capitals including Paris, where she performed at the Concerts Spirituels.

Her life, about which little is known, would seem a fruitful subject for further research; after marrying and touring with another Italian violinist, Lodovico Sirmen, she took up and toured, now as a singer, with a priest named Don Giuseppe Terzi. This second phase of her career took her as far afield as St. Petersburg. The six concertos presented here are attractive works in the Tartini style, with light themes that give way soon enough to sparsely accompanied solo sections that let the violin rise to the top of its range. The solo parts are bright and athletic but not fearsomely virtuosic.

Each concerto concludes with a rondo that is rather rudimentary in structure, with a basic theme blankly interspersed with episodes that may diverge in meter as well as key, but the overall effect is pleasing, and the music tells us a good deal about the violin concerto between Tartini and Mozart -- it has a light, airy quality devoid of French sentiment, and it doesn't hit you over the head with virtuoso display. The Hungarian historical-instrument players featured on this recording, violinist Piroska Vitárius and the Savaria Baroque Orchestra under Pál Németh, break new ground for early music in Eastern Europe with their assured performance. Vitárius is especially sharp in realizing the small, evanescent ornaments characteristic of Sirmen's style. This is an important contribution to the discography of music by women, recommended for violinists and for library collections.

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