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Geminiani: Violin Sonatas Op 5 / Steck, Möllenbeck, Rieger


Release Date: 07/31/2007 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777225   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Francesco Geminiani
Performer:  Markus MöllenbeckChristian RiegerAnton Steck
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Wonderful, self-possessed Italianate string sonatas by the mature Geminiani played with delicacy, sensitivity and warmth by three dedicated experts. Definitely one to keep and play often.

Britain was the beneficiary of Geminiani’s exile from Italy: born in Lucca, he was one of the several pupils of Corelli who left Rome on the latter’s death in 1713. By 1714 Geminiani was living in London - where it is certain he played alongside Handel. There his expertise and familiarity with Italian violin techniques and developments in string writing and playing were passed on to English players, and to audiences eager to enjoy such new, fashionable styles.

Geminiani’s output was relatively small – especially if judged
Read more by that of such contemporaries as Vivaldi, Telemann and Handel. Yet he saw his role more as an arbiter of taste and a distiller of compositions that shunned excessive virtuosity and extraneous show. Not for Geminiani the wholesale ‘borrowing’ and repurposing of Handel. He saw himself as writing in a more rarefied sphere and developing a specific genre for connoisseurs and specialists. Nor did the fact that Geminiani’s music never achieved the following that Handel’s did worry him too much: he had a ‘second career’ as an art dealer, mounter of exhibitions; he owned his own concert hall in Dublin.

But neither are these Opus 5 sonatas - nor, for that matter, any other of Geminiani’s works - the work of a part-time dilettante. They command concentration and a good degree of understanding in order to be appreciated to the full. By the latter stages of his career, the composer seems to have known that his work was drifting away from popular taste; he concentrated instead on his theoretical writings – and on composing, as is the case with these later pieces, as he wanted to.

In fact these sonatas, Opus 5, were first published – in 1746, in Paris and The Hague – for cello; although violin versions appeared the same year. The London versions (for cello, then violin) appeared a year later and it’s the latter that’s used in this recording. They’re in the sonata da chiesa four movement format: slow – fast – slow – fast and from the (very short) first movement of the first track on this CD (Opus 5 Number IV), it’s plain that this is a banquet of meticulously conceived and prepared delicacies, not a quick ‘take-away’. The writing, for example, of the next movement – although a fast one - in the same sonata is pensive, intricate and written in such a way as to insist on active listening as themes are developed and textures exchanged, especially between solo violin and the three instruments together.

You’ll also notice that the harpsichord has a more active role than that of continuo - although it’s also that. Indeed, when taken together with the huge variety of tempi - often within one movement - the music may strike you as having a tinge of romanticism when the rest of the musical world was heading for Classical order. But these are employed by Geminiani to ensure that there is always momentum, interest, contrast. It’s music redolent of C.P.E. Bach in that respect – and, frankly, every bit as inventive and satisfying.

Four aspects of the playing of Steck, Rieger and Möllenbeck strike you: first, a crystalline freshness and superb confidence. Listen to the way the ensemble passages of the final, allegro, movement of Number I in A major (tr.8) and the second, presto, movement of Number II in F sharp minor (tr.14) dance, swirl, unfold, return and yet stay completely within your ‘angle of vision’… the flourishes are restrained yet full of life; the balance and unison playing excellent and the attention to nuances of tempi perfect.

Then their consummate playing both distances musicians and music just as far as it’s necessary to see its structure and intended impact. At the same time it draws them into its intricacies. The result is that they are compelled to reveal and caress every nuance. This is clear, for example, in the peroration of Number VI (tr.28). A sense of deep satisfaction ensues.

Over and above the manifest professionalism and musicianship of these three players, their approach so finely and expertly attuned to detail must also be traced to Geminiani’s own intentions: “I do not wish to please the ears only. It is essential to express emotions, to rouse the imagination, inspire thought and curb the passions.” And it is precisely to that wonderful Enlightenment ideal that – through perceptive and expressive playing at every corner – that Steck, Rieger and Möllenbeck so admirably adhere. This is stimulating, rewarding, highly enjoyable music beautifully assembled and presented and can be safely and warmly recommended for anyone who will trust themself to Geminiani’s sure hands.

The solo sonata in B flat major is of somewhat doubtful provenance but makes yet another contrast as included here and can be enjoyed in its own right.

Two of the instruments were made in the eighteenth century: Steck’s violin is by Alessandro Gagliano (1701, Naples) and Möllenbeck’s cello is by Simon Gilbert (1756, Metz); Rieger plays a modern harpsichord by David Sutherland after Christian Zell (1724, Hamburg).

Markus Möllenbeck’s liner notes are informative, although the English translation is a little laboured. The recording is well balanced and mellow; the quantity of music – an hour - reasonably generous.

-- Mark Sealey, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Sonatas (6) for Cello and Basso Continuo, Op. 5: no 4 in B flat major by Francesco Geminiani
Performer:  Markus Möllenbeck (Cello), Christian Rieger (Harpsichord), Anton Steck (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1746; Dublin, Ireland 
Venue:  Bismarck Hall, WDR, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 6 Minutes 12 Secs. 
Notes: This arrangement is in D major.
Bismarck Hall, WDR, Cologne, Germany (01/05/2005 - 01/07/2005) 
2.
Sonatas (6) for Cello and Basso Continuo, Op. 5: no 1 in A major by Francesco Geminiani
Performer:  Christian Rieger (Harpsichord), Anton Steck (Violin), Markus Möllenbeck (Cello)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1746; Dublin, Ireland 
Venue:  Bismarck Hall, WDR, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 9 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Notes: Bismarck Hall, WDR, Cologne, Germany (01/05/2005 - 01/07/2005) 
3.
Sonatas (6) for Cello and Basso Continuo, Op. 5: no 3 in C major by Francesco Geminiani
Performer:  Markus Möllenbeck (Cello), Christian Rieger (Harpsichord), Anton Steck (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1746; Dublin, Ireland 
Venue:  Bismarck Hall, WDR, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 11 Minutes 46 Secs. 
Notes: Bismarck Hall, WDR, Cologne, Germany (01/05/2005 - 01/07/2005) 
4.
Sonatas (6) for Cello and Basso Continuo, Op. 5: no 2 in D minor by Francesco Geminiani
Performer:  Markus Möllenbeck (Cello), Christian Rieger (Harpsichord), Anton Steck (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1746; Dublin, Ireland 
Venue:  Bismarck Hall, WDR, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 9 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Notes: This arrangement is in F sharp minor.
Bismarck Hall, WDR, Cologne, Germany (01/05/2005 - 01/07/2005) 
5.
Sonata for Violin solo in B flat major by Francesco Geminiani
Performer:  Anton Steck (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Written: Italy 
Venue:  Bismarck Hall, WDR, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 8 Minutes 42 Secs. 
Notes: Bismarck Hall, WDR, Cologne, Germany (01/05/2005 - 01/07/2005) 
6.
Sonatas (6) for Cello and Basso Continuo, Op. 5: no 5 in F major by Francesco Geminiani
Performer:  Christian Rieger (Harpsichord), Markus Möllenbeck (Cello), Anton Steck (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1746; Dublin, Ireland 
Venue:  Bismarck Hall, WDR, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 7 Minutes 2 Secs. 
Notes: This arrangement is in B flat major.
Bismarck Hall, WDR, Cologne, Germany (01/05/2005 - 01/07/2005) 
7.
Sonatas (6) for Cello and Basso Continuo, Op. 5: no 6 in A minor by Francesco Geminiani
Performer:  Markus Möllenbeck (Cello), Christian Rieger (Harpsichord), Anton Steck (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1733; Dublin, Ireland 
Venue:  Bismarck Hall, WDR, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 7 Minutes 54 Secs. 
Notes: This arrangement is in D minor.
Bismarck Hall, WDR, Cologne, Germany (01/05/2005 - 01/07/2005) 

Sound Samples

Violin Sonata in D major, Op. 5, No. 4: I. Andante
Violin Sonata in D major, Op. 5, No. 4: II. Allegro moderato
Violin Sonata in D major, Op. 5, No. 4: III. Grave
Violin Sonata in D major, Op. 5, No. 4: IV. Allegro
Violin Sonata in A major, Op. 5, No. 1: I. Andante
Violin Sonata in A major, Op. 5, No. 1: II. Allegro
Violin Sonata in A major, Op. 5, No. 1: III. Andante
Violin Sonata in A major, Op. 5, No. 1: IV. Allegro
Violin Sonata in C major, Op. 5, No. 3: I. Andante
Violin Sonata in C major, Op. 5, No. 3: II. Allegro
Violin Sonata in C major, Op. 5, No. 3: III. Affettuoso
Violin Sonata in C major, Op. 5, No. 3: IV. Allegro
Violin Sonata in F sharp minor, Op. 5, No. 2: I. Andante
Violin Sonata in F sharp minor, Op. 5, No. 2: II. Presto
Violin Sonata in F sharp minor, Op. 5, No. 2: III. Adagio
Violin Sonata in F sharp minor, Op. 5, No. 2: IV. Allegro
Violin Sonata in B flat major: I. Adagio
Violin Sonata in B flat major: II. Vivace
Violin Sonata in B flat major: III. Affettuoso
Violin Sonata in B flat major: IV. Giga
Violin Sonata in B flat major, Op. 5, No. 5: I. Adagio
Violin Sonata in B flat major, Op. 5, No. 5: II. Allegro moderato
Violin Sonata in B flat major, Op. 5, No. 5: III. Andante
Violin Sonata in B flat major, Op. 5, No. 5: IV. Allegro
Violin Sonata in D minor, Op. 5, No. 6: I. Adagio
Violin Sonata in D minor, Op. 5, No. 6: II. Presto
Violin Sonata in D minor, Op. 5, No. 6: III. Adagio
Violin Sonata in D minor, Op. 5, No. 6: IV. Allegro

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