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


21 October 2013
MusicWeb International
Dave Billinge

These two sets of twelve trio sonatas are performed here by two violins, cello and either harpsichord or archlute. The title 'trio' refers to the three melody instruments to which was conventionally added a second continuo instrument, the cello being the first. The majority of Corelli's works were trio sonatas. Four sets of these were published.


The current sets Op. 2 and Op. 4 were called Sonata da camera, chamber sonatas, because they all contained dances such as allemands, courantes and gigues. The two other sets, Op. 1 and Op. 3 were called Sonata da chiesa, church sonatas, and they conventionally contained few dances and much more by way of abstract forms like fugues. The distinction between the two is always somewhat blurred and the 'wrong' forms sometimes appear within particular sonatas. Corelli's remaining two sets of works are the Op. 5 Violin Sonatas and the Op. 6 Concerti Grossi.

He was one of the greatest composers of the Baroque period and one can understand why contemporary writer and musician Roger North described his work as 'immortal'. 'Nothing will relish but Corelli' he once wrote. Corelli was certainly very influential in the spread of the trio sonata, an influence felt by Vivaldi, Bach, Telemann and Handel to name just the first rank. Even at the end of the 18th Century, decades after his death, Charles Burney was able to report that some saw Corelli as a 'model of perfection'.

Time spent with these chamber sonatas, performed with the utmost skill by five of the finest Baroque players of today, is time well spent. To hear the intertwining lines spun by the violins of Pavlo Beznosiuk and Caroline Balding is to suspend worldly cares. The frequency with which the music was reprinted all over Europe, especially Italy, France and England, is testimony to the veneration in which Corelli was held.

Having worked for Cardinal Ottoboni for most of his later life, Corelli rose to be not a musician-as-servant but a respected friend of his patron, in whose palace he lived for many years. Thus he mixed in the highest society and gained status as performer and teacher as well as composer. There seems to have been genuine sadness at his passing and he was buried with high honours in the Pantheon in Rome: a very different story indeed to that of Vivaldi and later Mozart.

Linn's recording of this beautiful music is well nigh perfect: every instrumental line is clear and placed within a natural acoustic. Combined with a set of well written and informative notes by Simon Fleming, this pair of SACDs sells itself. Linn have now recorded Corelli's complete published oeuvre with The Avison Ensemble. I would advise finding space on your shelf for all of them.


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Corelli: Opus 2 & 4: Chamber SonatasCorelli: Opus 2 & 4: Chamber Sonatas