Sonata No.16 a tre violini

Composer: Giovanni Battista Fontana (b. 1589 - d. 1630)
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Composer: Giovanni Battista Fontana (b. 1589 - d. 1630)

Performance date: 29/06/2014

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1571

Duration: 00:05:05

Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTE

Instrumentation Category:Small Mixed Ensemble

Instrumentation Other: 3vn, vc, lu

Artists: Kate Hearne - [recorder/cello]
Peter Spissky - [violin]
Fredrik From - [violin]
Antina Hugosson - [violin]
Fredrik Bock - [lute]

Little is known about the life of the
virtuoso violinist and composer Fontana.
He was born in Brescia around 1589, and it is
thought that he died from the plague in Padua
in 1630. His only surviving compositions are collected in a memorial anthology
published posthumously in Venice
in 1641, comprising of 6 sonatas for solo violin and continuo and 12 ensemble
sonatas for one to three violins and continuo. Although none of the works can
be firmly dated, they represent the sonata composition from its beginnings
until about 1630, showing Fontana
to be a leading figure in the early development of the form. We can only assume
that his works were widely played and were well enough regarded to warrant the
publication. Copyright laws did not exist in the 17th century, and many
references and exact quotations of Castello’s music can be found in Fontana’s sonatas.
Although this may leave some doubt about whether all these works are by Fontana’s hand, it is more likely that he met or played
with Castello in Venice
and admired his work enough so as to quote him out of respect.

The sonata for three violins presents
melodic material related to that found in the dances and canzonas of the
period, juxtaposed by the new
, which he presents to us in a solo for the third violin, full of
jazzy cross rhythms, expressive ornaments and sudden harmonic changes. This
through composed sonata is a prime example of
Fontana’s abilities to present quite
conservative material against more wayward harmonies and free recitative-like
writing in a very convincing and coherent fashion.