MANFREDINI: 12 Concerti op. 3

Any Italian composer with some
degree of success ( i.e. published works) must by now have multiple
recordings of multiple concerti available on disc. Think of Leonardo Leo,
Francesco Durante, Tommaso Albinoni, Francesco Manfredini. And yet virtually
nothing in the way of operas is available on recordings from these same
figures. Listening to vocal music takes a level of music concentration beyond
that necessary for consumption of instrumental music, beginning with a
willingness to enter the poetry of the text and the drama of the plot, and
for most listeners, grappling with a language that is not their native
tongue. Instrumental music is far more accessible. All this means that the
present disc is far from a discographic debut.

Manfredini was from the provinces, born in Pistoia, and spending most of
his career there. Then, as now, Pistoia was hardly a leading cultural center
in Tuscany. Manfredini studied and was employed as violinist in Bologna as a
young man, spent several years in Monaco, but returned to Pistoia in 1724 as
choir director at the Cathedral, and remained there until his death in 1762.
All of his published works were issued in Bologna between 1704 and 1718 (the
concertos, op. 3), with one posthumous collection issued almost fifty years
later in London.

These concertos are short (three movements, usually under seven minutes),
easily digestable, far from challenging, the sort of thing you might expect
on the radio between seven and nine AM, say. That is their virtue and their
defect. They are well-made, but there is as much difference between the
various concertos as there is between the contents of a nice box of
petit-fours. Individually, they may be sweet and tasty, but only the hardiest
or most gluttonous could imagine eating the whole box. Cloying, in a word. It
is revealing that “in order to offer the hearer a varied listening
experience” (in the words of the note), the producers have chosen to present
the works out of numerical order.

As far as I know, this is the third complete recording of the set, with a
deluxe set on Vox back in the glory days of the Italian baroque concerto on
disc (1956), and a more recent set on Naxos. The Naxos set, by the Capella
Istropolitana, is more in the vein of the modern performance on modern
instruments, full tone, vibrato, etc., and RÈmy and party follow the
“historically-informed performance line”, but it is not enough to bring these
weak pieces back to life.

Tom Moore

image_description=Francesco Onofrio Manfredini: 12 Concerti op. 3
product_title=Francesco Onofrio Manfredini: 12 Concerti op. 3
product_by=Les Amis de Philippe; Ludger RÈmy.
product_id=cpo 999 638-2 [CD]