Rolla Alessandro (1757-1841)
Duets for Violin and Viola
In an Italy completely absorbed by opera, between the second half of the 18th and the first half of the 19th centuries, Alessandro Rolla (1757-1841) was among those musicians who contributed to maintaining an interest in instrumental music. Intensely active himself as a concert artist, he was not alone in fostering the continued taste for virtuosity, polished instrumental technique, and an autonomous musical style influenced by contemporary Austrian music but essentially focused on particularly Italian characteristics. A contemporary text refers to Rolla as “the Creator of the sound of the viola”, but he was no less brilliant as a violinist. In the moving words of Vincenzo Monti, “the exceedingly sweet strings of our Rolla enchant the soul”. Alongside his activities as concert artist and conductor, he was also a dedicated teacher, producing a substantial catalogue of didactic pieces in which the chamber works vastly outweigh the symphonic-orchestral repertoire. It is, moreover, unquestionably in the chamber pieces that Rolla experimented more freely with questions of technique, highlighting both the great expressive capabilities of cantabile writing as well as the virtuosic resources of the two string instruments. If the viola alters (so to speak) the technical characteristics of the violin, undertaking passages which were until that time considered unplayable (double stops, large arpeggios, extremely arduous phrases), the violin is nevertheless equal to the challenge, and the writing style which results heralds the romantic virtuosity of a Paganini.