Geminiani - Alison McGillivray - International Record Review

Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762) was one of the greatest violinists of his day, a highly talented and characterful composer, and a respected teacher and theorist. For one who lived so long, his output is quite small, though magnified by numerous revisions of his own works and those of other composers. Three of his sets of Concerti grossi popularized his arrangements of works by Corelli; four are original compositions. His chamber music may well be his outstanding achievement, though its quantity is limited. In this field too there are numerous adaptations, mainly of his own works. An example is the free reworking of the B flat sonata for harpsichord, adapted from the Cello Sonata, Op. 5 No.5 in F [sic], which precedes it on this record. The highlights are his original sonatas (original in two senses of the word) for violin and basso continuo, and the seldom heard, very fine set of the Six Sonatas for Violoncello and Basso Continuo, published in Paris in 1756 and performed on period instrument on this welcome new CD.

The programme assembled by Alison McGillivray and her colleagues includes, apart from the sonatas of Op. 5, some interesting and valuable bonuses, interpersed between the main works and taken from his keyboard compositions. The listing in the booklet could have been more informative - for timings one has to turn to the back of the jewel-case. Particulars about the recording appear among the credits, and McGillivray provides a lively and detailed general introduction to the composer and his oeuvre; there are also notes on the performers.

The recording is of high quality, though I thought the harpsichord in the solos could with advantage have been slightly more recessed; I found the best results could readily be achieved at a lower than normal volume setting - the church acoustic seems a bit over-resonant for the music. David McGuinness plays a fine instrument based on an original by Ruckers. He phrases and articulates beautifully. The main pieces are of course the cello sonatas, performed with great sensitivity, grace and insight by McGillivray, whose enthusiasm is clear from her essay, and even more from her warm, committed performances. She is accompanied by an alert continuo group (alto guitar, cello and harpsichord), whose pointing of the textures as well as touches of individual charm enhance the effect of the whole. I have enjoyed this CD very much, and shall return to it often.

01 October 2005