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Unico Wilhelm, Count van Wassenaer (1692–1766), would have had a more prominent reputation as a composer if he had allowed his set of six concertos for strings to be published under his own name. Instead, he concealed his authorship, while permitting Carlo Ricciotti, an Italian violinist, to print them. After that, attribution of the concertos shifted to Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, and Stravinsky accepted this in his use of the Allegro Moderato fourth movement of the second concerto as the basis for his famous Tarantella in his ballet suite Pulcinella.

Van Wassenaer’s cover was blown in 1979, when the Dutch musicologist Alfred Dunning studied a manuscript found at the Wassenaer home, Twickel Castel, and found a note from the composer saying why he had though fit not to publish the concertos under his own name. They were of varying quality, he said: ‘Some of them are tolerable, some middling, others wretched’. Posterity has agreed to differ, and the concertos have been praised for their lively allegros and vivacious vivaces, and especially for their beautifully expressive slow movements, particularly the Largo andante of Concerto No 3, with its Vivaldi-like ostinato dotted figure.

Richard Jenkinson and his Innovation Chamber Ensemble give an idiomatic performance, doing well against strong competition including Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and the much more italianate L’Orfeo Ensemble under Fabrizio Ammetto.

Simon Rees Read the full review on Agora Classica


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