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When, in 1999, Andrew Manze recorded (Harmonia Mundi France) his two collections of sonatas Opp. 3 and op. 4, both dating from 1660 and both printed in Innsbruck, our knowledge of Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli was pratically nil: no biographical information other than the fact that he was engaged as a musician at the Habsburg court in Innsbruck that year.Thanks to the work on the archives of the Italian musicologist Fabrizio Longo (2005), our picture is significantly increased.
Antonio Pandolfi was born in Montepulciano (Tuscany), a place already famous at the time for its red wine. Shortly thereafter his family moved to Venice, then Antonio was engaged into the service of the Princess de’ Medici in Innsbruck, like many other Tuscan composers. After which we can localize our musician in Messina (Sicily) as a violinist with the chapel of the cathedral, where he murdered the Roman castrato Giovanni Marquett. Pandolfi fled, ambarking aboard a French ship, first sailing to France before reaching Madrid, where he managed to put himself at the service of the Spanish Habsburgs and remained to the end of his life.
Gunar Letzbor give us a full-blooded performance of the second collection of «a composer caught between homicide and musical affects», to quote the title of the authoritative liner notes od Herbert Seifert. What is noteworthy in the printed works of his that have been preserved is that Pandolfi dedicated almost all of his Sonatas to collegues encountered in music chapels and that he gave each work the name of one of them. Whether Pandolfi, in his music, alluded directly to specific characteristics of the dedicatees remains a mistery.
The previous collection of six sonatas (Opera Terza) will be released in the second half of the year. Faced with the solo harpsichord of the previous recording, the presence of a large continuo ensemble for interpreting Mealli’s Violini Sonatas attests to the influence of opera on instrumental music as practiced at the court of Innsbruck: colascione, guitar, archlute, harpsichord, organ and violone. In early opera, the highly differentiated instrumental timbres of the continuo instruments were used to clearly express different emotions.
The sixth Italian in Austria. After Bononcini (A 335), Conti (A 309), Caldara (A 324), Viviani (A 302) and Bertali (A340), the Austrian-born but Italian living Gunar Letzbor continues his research on the Italian- Austrian connections in the Baroque Era.