Avi Avital is doing for the mandolin what the great Andreas Segovia did for the classical guitar – lifting the instrument from being an occasional curiosity into becoming a concert hall mainstream player. Using his own arrangements of Baroque and folk pieces written for other instruments and commissioning contemporary composers, Avital has expanded the limited repertoire, and with the release of his latest album, Art of the Mandolin, we can see how far he has come.
Two Baroque masterpieces are its heart – Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Mandolins, where he is joined by his compatriot Alon Sariel and the Venice Baroque Orchestra, and Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata in D Minor, an arrangement of three keyboard sonatas that Avital argues were probably originally written for his instrument.
This delightful disc also features two dynamic 20th-century works with interesting instrumentations. Israeli composer Paul Ben-Haim’s Sonata a Tre explores the contrasting plucked sonorities of mandolin, harp and harpsichord and is a revelation, while Hans Werner Henze substituted guitar for the keyboard in his aptly ringing trio Carillon, Recitatif,Masque, which closes the disc.
Belgian harpist Anneleen Lennaerts joins Avital for Beethoven’s charming Adagio and British composer David Bruce – a favourite of the mandolinist – provides a jubilant highlight with his work Death Is A Friend of Ours, inspired by Sir Francis Bacon’s quote “Death is a friend of ours; and he that is not prepared to entertain him is not at home”.
Cream on the cake is Avital’s blistering performance of Prelude for Solo Mandolin by Italian composer-cellist Giovanni Sollima.
Title: Art of the Mandolin
Music by: Vivaldi, Bruce, Scarlatti, Henze et al.
Performer: Avi Avital ma
Label: DG 4838534