Ariosti, vol. 2

Attilio Ariosti: The Stockholm Sonatas II

There are some updates on this page, Aug. 2016

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Attilio Ariosti: The Stockholm Sonatas vol. II: Recueil de Pieces pour la Viola d'Amour, part 1.

  • Thomas Georgi: Viola d'amore
  • Lucas Harris:, Archlute and baroque guitar
  • Mime Yamahiro Brinkman: Violoncello

From Early Music Review:

Thomas Georgi has now released the second instalment of his recordings of Attilio Ariosti's Stockholm Sonatas. Ariosti's solos for viola d'amore, the largest single set of baroque works for the instrument survives in two sources: the Lezione, a collection of lessons- recorded by Georgi in his Stockholm Sonatas I, and the Recueil de Pieces pour le viol d'amour. The 15 solos of the Recueil survive in a copy by the young Swedish music student Johan Helmich Roman, who copied them during his visit to London in the late 1710s.The manuscript was preserved by the Swedish Library so the collection became known as Stockholm Sonatas. The word sonata is not used, but the movements fall into groups of 3 and 4 united by key and tuning and contrasting in tempo.

Unlike in his Stockholm Sonatas I recording, where he used three different instruments with different stringing, here Georgi has used the same instrument, a twelve string (6/6) viola d'amore throughout. Moving away from this experimenting with the sound and colour of different instruments, the focus of this second recording is on the ornamentation. Just like Corelli, Ariosti would have considered the source as an outline for further embellishments. For his own ornamentation Georgi used the graces Matthew Dubourg created for Corelli's violin sonatas as a model, which seems especially appropriate as one of Dubourg's sources was Johan Helmich Roman, the copyist of Ariosti's Recueil.

Georgi produces a brilliant yet sweet sound and brings out the characteristic resonance of the viola d'amore, emphasizing its special qualities and unique sound. His playing is full of spirit and the ornamentation supports the music's flow and never becomes an end in itself. The lively ornamentation of the faster movements helps drive the music forward whilst intensifying Ariosti's interesting use of cadences and musical silences in the slow movements.

The continuo playing of Lucas Harris and Mime Yamahiro Brinkman is skilful and endorses Georgi's solo lines. At places such as in Sonata 9, the continuo takes over the lead. Here Harris's accomplished solo of the Adagio repeats is inspired by the guitar arrangements by Santiago di Murcia's guitar arrangements of Corelli's violin sonatas, published in Mexico City in 1731.

Georgi's deft interpretation will no doubt contribute to a well-deserved recognition of Attilio Ariosti and we look forward to his third Stockholm Sonatas recording which will conclude the cycle.

By Daniela Braun

Notes to the second volume

It is a curious – if not always attractive – feature of human nature that we experience what we are expecting to experience. Despite the lesson of the Emperor’s new clothes, people most often see what the other guy sees, and hear what the other guy hears. Everyone has heard stories of cheap wine, presented to diners in bottles with the false label of a rare and expensive wine, winning high praise from the partakers. So it is with music, too. When a certain Gloria was ‘discovered’ to be the work of Handel a few years ago, a sudden increase of recordings followed. Of course, the music was just as old as it ever had been, and just as beautiful: all that had changed was the label.

Recently I was surprised to learn that the Pastoral Symphony from Handel’s Messiah is in part identical to an aria from Attilio Ariosti’s Tito Manlio (1717). Perhaps the younger composer was paying a belated homage to his elder, who had been kind to Handel during a visit to Berlin some 40 years before? (Please see Graydon Beeks’ article in the Händel-Jahrbuch 2004 for more information.) Whatever the means of transmission from Tito to Messiah, I was agog: without realizing it, we have been hearing Ariosti regularly for years!

As the research about Handel’s Pastoral Symphony shows, for over two hundred years some music by Ariosti has been heard regularly. What has kept the present music from being widely appreciated, then, is surely not its quality, but the uncommon difficulties that confront the would-be player of these viola d’amore solos.

I described these hurdles in detail in the notes to Stockholm Sonatas, Vol. 1; just to recapitulate, the scarcity of violas d’amore in general, and the lack of information – especially in regards to how he tuned it – about Ariosti’s instrument in particular has kept some unique musical inventions in obscurity.

This second CD in our Stockholm Sonatas series is played from the point of view that Ariosti used his viola d’amore as an alto range instrument, and that, like Corelli, he would have considered his score an outline, a point of departure for further embellishment. In a moment I will expand on this second point. In a coming third volume I will reconsider alternatives to these basic assumptions.

In preparation for this recording, in respect of the embellishment of the music, I took as a model the ‘graces’ (ornaments) which the violinist Matthew Dubourg (1703–1767) created for Corelli’s violin sonatas, both in style and in degree of elaboration. These seemed especially appropriate, as one of the extant sources of Dubourg’s graces is Roman himself, who then tried his own hand at writing Corelli graces. I found it interesting to examine Roman’s as well as Dubourg’s graces. Roman’s are so similar, often identical, to those of the younger musician while still trying to outdo them. (It is not easy to get your hands on this material, but very interesting. Aha! Update Aug. 2016. Thanks to Barenreiter, you no longer need to take my word for it. this very cool information is available!  Once you get your copy of BA 9456, compare Dubourg's version of the Allamanda of the F major sonata, page 27 of the Decorated versions, with Roman's, page 33. Look especially at bar 27 to the end. )

One of the most satisfying aspects, speaking more generally, of these graces by both young musicians, is the pacing that the ornaments give to the several cadences that occur in the course of any baroque movement. When cadences are elaborated in this progressive way, the listener always knows where they are in a movement. I have tried to apply this to certain movements on the present recording, especially in the Tempo di Gavottas of Sonata 8 and 9.

For Ariosti’s slow movements, Corelli/Dubourg/Roman was less useful to me as a guide; even so I have added graces to most repeats. In the Adagio of Sonata 9 my colleague Lucas Harris takes a solo turn in each section, modeled on the Corelli violin sonatas arrangements for guitar by Santiago di Murcia.

Some movements – such as the opening Allegro and the Rondeau of Sonata 14 -, seem to have no need of melodic elaboration, however, and I have left them alone.

Update August 2016. I am so glad I left those the opening allegro and rondeau of Sonata 14 alone, because both of these movements exist in similar versions in the Gottweig manuscript. You may find the alternate versions in Vol. 1 of the complete edition, the Allegro on page 60 and the Rondeau on page 62. You can buy your copy here.


Interestingly, the Allegro is titled, curiously, Ritornello in the Gottweig manuscript of the basso part. Either way, Allegro or Ritonello, it is not a very Suite like movement. Other differences between the two versions include the key (the Gottweig version is a tone higher in F,) and that the Ariosti versions has two phrase extensions, one bar in the A section and two bars in the B. You can hear all of that in a video score I made juxtaposing the two versions:


Listen here.


I feel vindicated by my choice not to ornament this movement, because, as you can see, Ariosti did add quite a few divisions to the Gottweig version, (which now I can't help thinking of as the original.) He added a bar extension to the cadence of the A section, very nice, and 2 bars extension to the dominant pedal in the B section. Now, if I had understood that when I recorded the music, a decade ago now, I would have done much more with bars 16-18, which now seems to me to have the character of a cadenza.


In the Rondeau, the alterations Ariosti made to the Gottweig have a different purpose. (Please note! I am jumping to a conclusion here, that Ariosti copied these movements from the Gottweig manuscript, or from the same source as the Gottweig manuscript, maybe when he was in Vienna during the first decade of the 18th century.  And that that is what is meant by the surviving copy of Ariosti's music, copied by Johan Roman in the 1710's when he was in London. Roman's manuscript copy, Ro:99's title, Ariosti's Recuiel de pieces pour la Viol d'Amour;  might  not mean Ariosti's compositions for the viola d'amore, but his collection of viola d'amore music. Maybe that is why Roman manuscript is not divided up into compositions? (Neither is the Gottweig manuscript; the suites in the edition are the editors suggestions, as is the division into Sonatas in my recording my choice.) I could still be all wrong! Beware!) In the Rondeau, assuming once again for arguments sake that I might be right, that Gottweig is the original or older version, Ariosti reworked the bass part, to give it a slight character of being an independent imitative voice. At bar 39 there is even a 2 bar extension of a dominant pedal to give the bass a short solo. You can watch a video score here.


Sonata 14 provides an interesting puzzle of another kind, as pages 65-67 in Roman’s manuscript are blank. These three blank pages are then followed by a second, 12/8 version of the gigue. The second version of the gigue differs musically from the first in that the accompaniment has been elaborated, adding eighth note motion. Speculating now, I think Roman meant to go back and add a complete second version of this sonata in Eb from another source, and simply didn’t have the opportunity to do so. Because I find the alternative Gigue intriguing, I added it to the end of the Sonata 14 as a kind of double, with graces added to both versions.

Sonata 11 concludes with an Air en Rondeau, noteworthy for its eloquent silences, known musically as General Pauses (G.P. for short). There are many silent moments in Ariosti, for instance in the Andante and Adagio of Sonata 9; he was well ahead of his time in his many uses of musical silence. However, the Air en Rondeau is a difficult page in the manuscript, in that it contains blank spaces as well as silences. Two of these should not be left silent, namely the returns of bars 5-10 of the Rondeau theme itself.  These blanks are truly blank, whereas in the case of silences or G.P., Roman wrote rests. When they occur in the returns of the Rondeau theme, I believe he meant to go back and put in graces. We do know that even in the first statement of the Rondeau, the handwriting in bar 5-10 is different from the rest of the manuscript, and it is at this point in the theme that the omissions occur later in the movement. Maybe it is a wild supposition, but I think Roman intended to insert graces at these points, so I have filled them with melodic elaborations.

What might have happened had Ariosti chosen the violin as his vehicle, instead of the viola d’amore? His remarkable twists of harmony, his witty way with silence as well as with notes, his preference for juxtaposition of contrasting material over development of a single idea: would these qualities have found him as wide an audience as Corelli’s, had he only chosen a widely available instrument so that his inventions could be shared widely? For my part I can’t help wondering if the Classical Style might not have developed sooner had the viola d’amore been more widely used, or Ariosti a violinist composer. Perhaps Haydn, as well as Handel, might have quoted Ariosti.