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GRAMOPHONE (07/2016)
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Pan Classics 

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Reviewer: Charlotte Gardner

The Manuscript XIV 726 of the Minorite Monastery in Vienna is one of the most important sources of Austrian Baroque music, containing over 100 handwritten copies of violin sonatas and giving an intriguing snapshot into the stylistic musical melting pot that was 18th-century Vienna. Some of these sonatas are by famous names, while others are by lesserknown or anonymous writers. The common thread throughout, though, is their high virtuosity, and as such they’ve represented rich pickings for violinist Gunar Letzbor and Ars Antiqua Austria, resulting in their ‘Ex Vienna’ series of recordings. ‘Accordato’ presents attributable works that don’t require retuning of the violin (that repertoire is on ‘Scordato’). With such a lot of scholarly sifting underpinning these discs, it’s a surprise that the overall package has as many informational holes as it has; the sonatas appear to be named after their manuscript order rather than by their actual name and basic composer dates are also missing, making this a potentially vexing experience for armchair scholars. However, the actual musical contents – mostly under-recorded repertoire, with the exception of the third sonata from Biber’s 1681 solo sonata collection (described here as No 9) – are a motley assortment in the best sort of a way; the disc opens with a sonata from Buonaventura Viviani (1638-c1693) that matches virtuosity with atmosphere. There’s also a Capriccio from Antonio Bertali (c1605-69), and three sonatas by Rupert Ignaz Mayr (1646-1712). The majority feature organ accompaniment, while the lesser-heard colascione makes an appearance accompanying the aforementioned Biber sonata. Letzbor’s playing style itself contrasts fast, forte passages in which he carves into his instrument with scratchy-tone-producing gung-ho abandon, with legato sections characterised by a fairly uniform but pleasing strong-toned sweetness. As such, it won’t be for everyone, but it’s certainly dramatic.

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