The mysterious case of “La Montanari”

CD cover snakewood

The mysterious case of a violin sonata by Giuseppe Valentini, dedicated to Antonio Montanari and own by Johann Georg Pisendel

Each piece of the CD 1717. Memories of a Journey to Italy  is part of a personal and musical journey. Each piece has a small or great story behind it and tells us not only the musical experiences of Pisendel along his trip through Italy, but these works hide the personal stories that Pisendel forged during this journey.

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The manuscript of the Sonata for violin and continuo in A Major, “La Montanari”, by Valentini is a fine example of a musical dedication to his much-admired Antonio Montanari. The manuscript was carefully copied, probably by Valentini himself. The manuscript includes a beautiful dedication on the cover:

“La Montanari | Sonata per Camera a | Violino Solo | dedicata al merito impareggiabile del | Sig:re Antonio Montanari | Insigne Sonator di Violino, | Da un suo divoto Servo ammiratore | della sua Virtù”.

[La Montanari. Chamber Sonata for Solo Violin, dedicated to the incomparable merit of Signor Antonio Montanari, distinguished player of the violin, by a devoted servant who admires his skill.]

Valentini. Sonata in A Major Mus.2387-R-5. Cover page.
Valentini. Sonata in A Major Mus.2387-R-5. Cover page.

But this was not the only praise offered by Valentini to Montanari. A few years earlier, in 1707 in Rome, Valentini published a series of sonatas entitled Villeggiature Armoniche, Op. 5; the ninth also bears the title “La Montanari”.

And in 1708, Valentini, who was also a poet, published his Rime containing poems dedicated to Corelli, Bononcini to Montanari. The one to Montanari reads:

Al Signore Antonio Montanari eccellente Sonatore di Violino MadrigaleQuella, Antonio, sì vagavoce che doni al cóncavo tuo legno rapisce ogn´alma ed ogni core impiaga, e con l´industre ingegno, nuovo Achille sonoro con l´istessa armonía sani ogni piaga; onde quando t´ascolto non so s´io peni in Paradiso accolto, so ben con mio ristoro[.] Da quelle corde d´oro tanta dolcezza la tua man disserra, che per te gode il Cielo anco la Terra.To Mr Antonio Montanari Excellent violin player MadrigalThat refined voice, Antonio,  that you give to your concave wood captivates every soul and torments every heart , and with diligent ingenuity, a new Achilles of sound heals every wound with harmony so when I listen to you, though I have been received in Paradise, I cannot know if I am suffering, but I do know that I am relieved.  From those strings of gold  Your hand disperses such sweetness, That thanks to you both Heaven and Earth rejoice.

It seems clear the admiration that Valentini felt towards Montanari. “La Montanari” sonata is a valuable example of this admiration.

How is it possible that the Sonata for violin and continuo in A Major, “La Montanari” ended up in the hands of a very young Pisendel soon to be composed? In addition, the score that Pisendel took to Dresden was not a copy, as many others,it was the autograph manuscript that Valentini dedicated to Montanari…

Considering its musical and sentimental value, such a manuscript should surely have remained in the possession of its dedicatee and we can only hypothesise as to how it ended up in Pisendel’s baggage. Perhaps it was a gift from both composers to the young German violinist. If so, it would have been a gift of immense musical and personal value.

What do you think?
Listen to an excerpt of Valentini sonata “La Montanari”

Listen to Montanari sonata in E minor:

Listen more examples of the CD 1717. Memories of a Journey to Italy

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