The liner notes lay out the problems with these Giuseppe Tartini works. In the late 1760s, the term a Quattro (in 4 parts) was somewhat vague. Did Tartini intend his Sonate a Quattro to be played with only four string instruments, as a proto-string quartet? And what about the role of the harpsichord, tacitly a part of any instrument composition?

What did Tartini mean by Sinfonie a Quattro? Should there be more than one instrument per part, making it a true orchestral work? Violinist Maurizio Schiavo and Ensemble Il Demetrio thoughtfully considered these questions. This release presents their answers.

We might not have definitive answers as to what Tartini meant. But this release gives us some convincing performances. And ultimately, what matters is the music. The Sonata in C major is played as a string quartet – two violins, viola, and cello. As such, it’s an appealing work. The absence of the harpsichord gives the work transparency that lets every line breathe.

The other four works include harpsichord filling out harmonies. It’s not a detriment. Rather, the harpsichord makes Tartini’s music sound more Baroque than Pre-Classical. The Sonata in G major and Sonata in A major are marked Sinfonias.

The ensemble plays these pieces with a fuller, heavier sound. Their interpretation makes these Sinfonias sound weightier than the Sonatas a Quattro on the album.

Musicology may have informed the Ensemble Il Demetrio’s interpretations, but these are not dry academic exercises. Maurizio Schiavo and the ensemble play these works with warmth and vitality. As I said — ultimately, it’s about the music.

Giuseppe Tartini: 4-parts Sonatas and Sinfonias
Ensemble Il Demetrio; Maurizio Schiavo, violin
Brilliant Classics 95398