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Sonatas for Violin and Basso C
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Arcangelo Corelli' fame as both violinist and composer was widespread throughout seventeenth century Europe. His surviving works are relatively few in number but farreaching in influence, both in terms of performance practice and compositional technique.
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Having recorded the first six sonatas from Corelli's famous Opus V set with Lucy van Dael and Bob van Asperen and partly using an organ as continuo instrument, Naxos have gone on to record and release the last twelve sonatas from this cycle with Francois Fernandez, who was for many years concert master of La Petite Bande, and American harpsichordist Glen Wilson, who is a professor at the University of Würzburg in Germany and has made many CDs, including a series for Warner's "Das Alte Werk". Wilson uses a two-manual Flemish harpsichord, a decision which he intelligently defends in his essay in the booklet, and the sonic results demonstrate the validity of his argument. I nowhere missed a violoncello as a second continuo instrument. Francois Fernandez plays a violin by Guarneri from the year 1690 and has opted for a diapason of a' = 400 Hertz, which approximates to what was generally adopted in Rome around 1700 and sounds fine on this recording, although I do think that Fernandez' playing is, despite its heady virtuosity, on occasion rather strict and austere. Both instruments, and the violin in particular, have been captured by the Bavarian Radio engineers very directly, almost over-directly perhaps (one hears occasionally a number of noises such as gasping or knocking, apart from a distant church bell). The entire CD seems to be accompanied by a soft electronic hum; this never interferes with the music but it can be slightly irritating when listening on headphones, particularly between tracks. But at Naxos's amazing price this is still a great bargain which should make sure Naxos receives the thanks of all early music fans.
Additional note: Fernandez and Wilson play the original Corelli versions with the exception of Sonate IX, where they include Geminiani's ornaments. I didn't find these obtrusive.
I am surprised that this recording has not been previously reviewed on Amazon, as it offers an excellent recording at a great price.
Corelli's opus 5, 1705, was a landmark in music at the time, and set the form for violin sonatas for a century or more. The sonatas were written for violin and cello or harpsichord, but soon cello and harpsichord were employed. The first 6 were written as church sonatas, and the second 6, which we have here, as chamber sonatas. A revised edition of 1710, which is used here, has more ornamentation in the repeats. Geminiani arranged the 12 sonatas as concerti grossi, which could be seen as a highly ornamented version. This is available on Harmonia Mundi with the Academy of Ancient Music under Andrew Manze, well worth a listen.
For some years my "reference" recording of these sonatas has been Monica Huggett with her Sonnerie, she uses one or more of cello, harpsichord/organ and archlute/theorbo/guitar. I found I prefered all three, I liked the somewhat lush accompaniment, and was surprised to enjoy this version with harpsichord alone.
Here Francois Ferdandez plays a Guarneri violin and Glen Wilson a dual manual harpsichord, the pitch used is 400hz, thought to be that used in Rome at that period. They produce a performance of this famous music with great clarity, the spirit of Corelli shines through.
In fact there are only five violin sonatas on this recording, the sixth, no 12 of opus 5, is a set of 22 variations on an old dance tune , Follia or madness, referring to the dancers.
I have no hesitation in recommending this CD, especially at the price available through Amazon.