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Arcangelo Corelli: Chamber Sonatas, Opp. 2 & 4

Corelli / Avison Ensemble
Release Date: 09/24/2013 
Label:  Linn Records   Catalog #: 413   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Arcangelo Corelli
Performer:  Pavlo Beznosiuk
Conductor:  Pavlo Beznosiuk
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Avison Ensemble
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Mixed 
Length: 2 Hours 30 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CORELLI Trio Sonatas, opp. 2 and 4 Pavlo Beznosiuk (vn); dir; Avison Ens LINN 413 (2 SACDs: 150:31)

Linn’s release of trio sonatas by Arcangelo Corelli brings together the two sets, op. 2 and op. 4, of the sonatas da camera on SACD, with the 12 sonatas of each set played in order. Each of the sonatas lasts only a few minutes—some, like op. 2/1, fewer than four; but the elegance of the melodic and harmonic writing create for Read more them an impression of being larger than life. In Pavlo Beznosiuk’s tart but not acidic performances with the Avison Ensemble, these brief masterworks shine with almost preternatural brightness, as in the first movement of op. 2/2. Caroline Balding joins Beznosiuk as the other of the two violinists, with continuo support by Richard Tunnicliffe, cello; Paula Chateauneuf, archlute; and Roger Hamilton, harpsichord and organ. In general, the engineers have swathed the players in the reverberant acoustic of St. George’s Church, Chesterton, in which they recorded the performances on January 11–15, 2010 and January 11–17, 2012. Yet the sparse textures, without the reinforcement of large numbers of ripieno players as in the concerti grossi, only enhance the music’s logical inevitability, as in the Presto of op. 2/3. But the smaller resources also seem nimble enough, even in their reverberant setting, to encourage—and make convincing—quicker tempos in the slow movements, as in the third of op. 2/4. So when the ensemble moves the Preludio of op. 2/5 along faster than they might its counterpart in a concerto da camera , the listener can still palpably experience the awe of Corelli’s vaulting, overlapping lines. And the continuo group gives the bass, as in the Allemanda of op. 2/7, a solid presence, providing an especially firm harmonic foundation. Simon D. I. Fleming notes in the booklet that the elements of the sonata da camera merged increasingly with those of the sonata da chiesa , and the ensemble’s dignified performance of the Preludio of op. 2/8 provides as an example of this melding. Op. 2/9, in F? Minor, may have set earlier harpsichord players scurrying to find their tuning hammers. The performance of op. 2/10 features a particularly elegant Sarabanda, and that of op. 2/11 an effervescent reading of its second-movement Allemanda. A ciaconna, not so well known as the composer’s variations on La Folia , op. 5/12, brings the set to a close.

The second disc of the set presents the 12 sonatas of op. 4, again in numerical order. At times in these performances, as in the biting suspensions and chromatic inflections of the third-movement Adagio of op. 4/1, or the elegant alternations of instruments in the Allemanda (a feature also found in the Concerto, op. 6/8), suggest that Corelli had reached a higher level of sophistication in this later set. And harpsichordist Roger Hamilton emerges more boldly in movements like the Preludio of op. 4/2, lending those moments a greater sensitivity. The alternations between the two violins seem particularly eloquent in the opening movement of op. 4/3; and Beznosiuk and Balding sprinkle among its folds discreet ornaments, presumably improvised. The rollicking Giga that concludes op. 4/4 and the almost church-like Preludio and ensuing fugal Allemanda of op. 4/5 show once again how the movements of the two sonata genres had come to mix—or, at least, how they seem to mix in these performances—even more so than in the sonatas of op. 1 or op. 2. Yet the Preludio of op. 4/6 alternates fast and slow recalling an older, multi-sectional form. The ensemble’s sensitivity to the music’s textural possibilities transmogrifies the opening of op. 4/7, which they seem to have buoyed with helium; they create a similar impression in the Sarabanda Finale of op. 4/8, skipping its bass line like a flat stone in a creek. They create dazzling rhythmic complexity in the Corrente of op. 4/9 and sharp pungency in the Grave of op. 4/10. Op. 4/11 features another set of suspensions, in its concluding Allemanda, over a tripping bass; again, the ensemble buoys it to feather lightness. The Preludio of op. 4/12 offers the ensemble the opportunity to weave lines in a contrapuntal loom, while the final two movements seem like a double dessert in their reading.

The Purcell Quartet’s complete recordings of the composer’s first four books of sonatas on Chandos (516, 515, 526, and 532), now more than 20 years old, display an approach to the works—tart and abrasive, and as sharp as so many razor blades—that even after two decades may strike some collectors as dated. They give way here to performances that scholars nowadays might still welcome as correct, but that embrace color and nuance—and even tonal beauty—as well as what seem the old mainstays—starchy timbres and crisp tempos, and lots of crunch. Even the preference in Beznosiuk’s set for a more reverberant setting seems telling. Linn’s recording, in summary, presents a lighter-than-air, unmannered account of works as influential in the development of the sonata as engrossing to hear—even, as here, ad seriatim . Very strongly recommended.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Trio Sonatas (12) for 2 Violins and Basso Continuo, Op. 2 by Arcangelo Corelli
Performer:  Pavlo Beznosiuk (Violin)
Conductor:  Pavlo Beznosiuk
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Avison Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1685; Rome, Italy 
Venue:  St George's Church, Chesterton, Cambridg 
Length: 1 Minutes 12 Secs. 
Trio Sonatas (12) for 2 Violins and Basso Continuo, Op. 4 by Arcangelo Corelli
Performer:  Pavlo Beznosiuk (Violin)
Conductor:  Pavlo Beznosiuk
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Avison Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1694; Rome, Italy 
Venue:  St George's Church, Chesterton, Cambridg 
Length: 1 Minutes 22 Secs. 

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