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The Avison Ensemble - Corelli: Opus 2 & 4: Chamber Sonatas -

27 September 2013
James Manheim
4 Stars

The ongoing recordings of Arcangelo Corelli's music by the Avison Ensemble and Ukrainian-British violinist-leader, Pavlo Beznosiuk, all have something to recommend them. With this double-disc set the group covers Corelli's two published sets of 'chamber sonatas,' a direct translation of the Italian 'sonate da camera.' The term denoted a suite-like structure of multiple short dances or other binary movements rather than a specific set of forces. Corelli himself published them as 'sonate a tre,' or sonatas for three instruments. The booklet notes by Simon D.I. Fleming here go to great lengths to justify performance with four instruments, as doubtless occurred often in the 18th century. What you get here, however, is something else: performance with five instruments, the violins of Beznosiuk and Caroline Balding, plus cello, archlute, and harpsichord or organ. This is a very big and active continuo group, and its presence is further heightened by the improvisatory fills of all the players, especially cellist Richard Tunnicliffe. This is not right or wrong, although it seems a bit daring in music specifically designated as being for three instruments. The effect is to push the music in the direction of a chamber group for equals rather than a dialogue of two soloists. And Corelli was nothing if not a soloistic composer...the virtues of the Avison group are once again on full display here; the players achieve a sparkling liveliness in the fast movements that few other groups seem to manage with period strings. 
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Corelli: Opus 2 & 4: Chamber SonatasCorelli: Opus 2 & 4: Chamber Sonatas