Pietro Nardini (1722-1764)
Sonatas for Violin and Continuo
In Nardini’s day, it was customary for performers to demonstrate their own instrumental abilities through their compositions, and thus it is no surprise that a large part of Nardini’s works consists of sonatas for violin and basso continuo. These works often open with a slow tempo, typical of Italian baroque style in general and of the Tartini school in particular, followed by two quick movements. The adagios, especially, are of great interest and are often extant in two versions. A “nude” one, that is, with the melody unadorned, features a warm-hearted simplicity and a wealth of chiaro scuro effects. A more “embroidered” version, on the other hand, provides an excellent idea of Nardini’s musical aesthetic: the characteristics cited above are highlighted and exalted by chromaticisms and daring intervals indicative of his musical personality as well as by embellishments and ornaments belonging to the Tartini school. The sonatas conclude with allegros, significant in their own right. These movements, though always very agile and idiomatic to the violin, are characterised by good musical taste and “affectionate” expression, and inarguably mark the author’s personal style—full of spirit and elegance in a period when virtuosity for its own sake often prevailed. The bass line, often unfigured, proceeds in a natural and refined manner following the harmonic precepts which governed the practice of accompanying a solo instrument. It solidly sustains the melody with frequent tonal cadences, brief harmonic progressions, ascending chromaticisms, smooth modulations, and small contrasting dialogues.