2015年3月7日 星期六

Fabio Biondi in Hong Kong (法比奥.比昂迪在香港)

Everyone who loves the sound of the violin has heard of such names as Paganini, Milstein, Heifetz, Gitlis, Kreisler, Oistrach, Mehuhin and Stern and more recently Zukerman, Perlman, Kremer, Shaham  and Kavakos. But I don't think that every one has heard of a very good violinist who specializes in baroque and classical music written for the violin and played in the period instruments and using original techniques of the relevant age in which such pieces were written. He is Fabio Biondi (b 1960), from Palermo, Italy, who first started to play the violin at the age of 12. He has recorded numerous pieces by such Italian composers as Corelli, Scarlatti, Vivaldi and such 18th century Italian composers as Veracini, Locatelli and Tartini and many others and is the founder of the Europa Galante in 1990, a group which devotes itself to the popularization of baroque and classical repertoires.
At the Concert Hall of the Academy of Performing Arts in Wanchai, Fabio Biondi played a very special programme to introduce the history of the violin in Italy in the first half of the 18th century, not very many of whom are well known in Hong Kong. We had sonatas from Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713), Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762), Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770) , Francesco Veracini (1690-1768) and Pietro Locatelli (1695-1764).

According to the programme notes, starting from early 1600's, the violin became a serious solo musical instrument in Italy. The first bowed violins were invented by Mongolian and Turkic horseriders: the use horse hairs strings and the bow and the horse-shaped the head of the violin's fingerboardf betray their chevalier origin. Such bowed instruments passed to Europe from the Persians (presentday Iran) and eventually came to north Italy and the Italian luthiers perfected its construction and Italian violinists perfected a new genre of musical form known as the sonata. Up to around mid-17th century, the violin sonata was a rather free form of one movement divided into two contrasting sections and it was Corelli who converted it into a more regular, definite and balanced form of 4 movements of slow-fast-slow, fast by writing his famous 12 violin sonatas and it was in the 19th century that  the Italian violin virtuosi developed a novel, expressive and semi-improvised melodic style called "basso cotinuo". But Vivaldi resisted Corelli's 4 movement model by creating the 3 movement violin concertos. It's a double delight to learn a bit of musical history whilst enjoying live music. There is a closeness, a physical intimacy with the direct sound and a visual interaction with the eyes and the body language the musicians which simply can't be matched by listening to CD's or even vinyl ,no matter how excellent one's hi fi system may be.  Biondi plays a 1686 Guarneri violin whose sound is so naturally mellow that one never hears those overbright screeches which one sometimes hears from some more modern violins.Biondi is accompanied by a charming harpichordist Paola Poncet who studied the baroque harpischord technique with another baroque specialist the Dutch organist Ton Koopman on a 4-year scholarship by the La de Sono Associazone per la Musica upon her graduation at the Conservatorio Statale di Musica "Giuseepi Verdi" in 1992 and had also taken master classes from such baroque music experts as Bob van Asperen, Christiane Jacottet and Jasper Christensen and won the first prize at the Harpischord Competition in Bologna in 1996

Biondi's opening number is Corelli's Violin Sonata No. in A Op 5 in Largo (Preludio), Allegro (Giga), Adagio and Allegro (Tempo di Gavotte), a very quiet and serene piece with moments of faster paces where the sound of music meanders in stately measures.

The second piece is Vivaldi's Sonata in B-flat for violin and basso continuo R V 34 (from his Manoscritto di Dresda) (Dresden Manuscripts) originally written for the oboe in Adagio, Allegro, Largo and Allegro. It's another typical baroque piece with very balanced sound between the high and low notes and often with the same phrase structure at more or less the same speed going up and down the scale and playing around with the sound but full of joy and brightness.

The third piece of the evening is another piece which I never heard before: Francesco Geminiani's (another violinist) Sonata No. 8 in D minor for violin and basso continuo Op 4 in Largo, Allegro, Andante and Allegro. This is a very lively piece going at a fast pace, then a more stately pace and then faster again. The programme notes describes it as "florid and expressive".

The piece which resumed after the intermission is another piece I heard for the first time. It's Giuseppe Tartini's ( another famous  Italian violinist) Sonata No. 10 in G minor Op 1 Didone Abbadonata (Dido deserted) in Affettuoso, Presto, Allegro. This piece is a bit sad, occasionally agitated but very moving. it is supposed to be a psychological study of the Carthaginian Queen abandoned by her lover Aeneas. It is supposed to start off with souvenirs of her happy times with Aeneas, followed by fury and then ends in "suicidal despair".

The next piece is another composer's whose work I never heard before. So it's very educational. It's a piece by Francesco Maria Veracini, another of Corelli's pupil : his Sonata No.12 in D minor. The following is the complete sonata.

But Biondi only played the fourth movement of the sonata: Ciaccona in allegro ma non presto, a piece full of that sense sauntering and playful vivacity typical of much of baroque music and yet already looking forward to the romanticism of early 19th century. Here's that 4th movement by Biondi and Alessandrini.

The final piece in the official programme is Pietro Antonio Locatelli's, whom some has described as the "the Paganini of the Baroque Sonata No. 12 in D minor , Op. 6 in typical Adagio, Allegro, Andante and Allegro. If that description is correct, we won't be very far wrong if we were to expect some pretty virtuoso firework on either the fingerboard and the bowing. The rather long first movement is rather slow and wistful, the second is completely different: full of rhythm and energy. In the third, we revert to the quiet, serene, simple emotions reminiscent of the Medieval Ages but of course its melodic motives and harmony are very different and in the final movement we switch back to the gay, energetic and quick rhythms of the second movement in a dramatic close.


Biondi and Poncet responded to the enthusiastic applauses with not one but two encore numbers: the first is a work by a little known Italian composer called ,if I heard right, Gariati and another whose name I don't know. I noticed that when Biondi played the violin, he held it very close to his body with his elbow almost touching his waist and that includes even the bowing hand, something very different from the posture adopted by contemporary violinists. Is that the way they played the instrument in the early 18th century italy? Whatever the answer may be, I'll be hear Biondi again tonight as part of the group Europa Galante. If I may rely on the sound of his Quattro Stagiones, a disc of the group  I bought in the early 1990s', I can look forward to some exciting sounds.