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Early Music Review

Clifford Bartlett

No. 115, October 2006


Torelli Concertino (Sonata) in A minor (TV 51); original version for two violins and basso continuo edited by Michael Talbot Edition HH (30.118), 2oo6. xi + 12pp, £12.95
Torelli Sinfonia (Sonata) in A major (TV50)... edited by Michael Talbot Edition HH (30.117), 2oo6. xiii + 18pp, £13.95

Both these works survive in BL Add. 64,975, bought by Thurston Dart in Paignton in around 1943 and eventually, 16 years after his death, bought by the British Library in 1987. The link between a wide range of contents was Pepusch, though it is not in his hand. In the MS they appear as trio sonatas, but both survive at San Petronio, Bologna, where Torelli worked from 1684-96 and from 1701 till his death in 1709, with parts for orchestra. TV 51 has the two solo parts split between 4 violins, 5 each for violin I & II ripieno, 9 viola parts, 5 for cello and 10 for violone. The San Petronio version of TV 50 is less elaborate, and also involved no change substantial enough to prevent this edition allowing performance both as trio sonata and as a concerto grosso with two solo violins and cello. The editor argues convincingly that the trio versions of both pieces are the original ones, with subsequent enlargements made by the composer. The moral of the version of TV51 is that, if you want to play a trio sonata orchestrally, add a viola part, copy out ripieno parts (not forgetting the possible need for minor adjustments at their entries and exits) and a i& bass - assuming Talbot is right in assuming that the occasional viola note below the bass demands 16'. (Iíve expressed my doubts before whether a viola playing briefly below a cello is actually heard as affecting the harmony.) TV51 is rewritten more drastically, chiefly by dividing each the solo part between two players, so cannot be combined in one edition, so that can only be used for the trio version.

The edition is of the habitual high quality one has so quickly come to expect from HH. The substantial introduction (English and German) is mostly identical in the two scores; each has a critical commentary, and the printing of the notes is neat and clearly legible, offering no impediment to playing these fine pieces.

Iíll raise one point, not as specific criticism of these publications but as a general issue. When should an editor add bass figuring. I find that the way I think as a player varies according to whether a bass is minimally or fully A, figured. If the latter (whether in the source or by rapidly scrawling figures in gaps in the rehearsal), I assume that the absence of a figure is significant; but if the bass isnít figured, I react far more to the signs in the music. Take the 2nd movement of TV51 as an example. The first bass entry has quavers

| E #F #G E F E F G | A !A C A D B E E | A

[! = an octave leap]. The sharp before the third note makes it unnecessary to show that the first four quavers are under an E major chord, and the pattern of the rest is predictable: if one plays that chord with an E at the top, the hands fall into place without thought. The one note where assistance might be needed is the final A. The editor, however, figures nine of the notes (four with double figures) but doesn't figure the A because by the key-signature it is minor. But that A really does need help. Torelli seems, on the evidence of this piece, reluctant to include a third in minor cadences at all, so should the keyboard also have unisons? I suspect that I would play a major chord first time through, and might decide that the C natural on the violinís third semiquaver was an intended piquancy, but Iíd probably settle on unisons rather than the editorís minor. There are mistakes in the editorial figuring in TV50, with sharps printed under the fifth note in bar 2 and fourth note in bar 3 instead of Ď6í.

We are grateful to the editor of Early Music Review for permission to reproduce this review.
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