Notes and Editorial Reviews
The set is valuable as a single survey of the great composer's work - especially since it contains many items otherwise unavailable. The period instruments sound well, the playing throughout is accomplished and achieved with a certain almost nonchalance that suggests the players are very familiar with the music.
Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) was an influential composer, musician and prominent figure in the musical world in the last part of the seventeenth and very early eighteenth century in Italy and beyond. It is indeed hard to accept that all the known works of Corelli can be contained on just ten CDs. But they can; they have been; and they're available again in a re-issue of Brilliant Classics 92403. That set had a
slightly different disposition of works but is essentially the same.
It's a set of ten CDs recorded in 2004 and played on period instruments by Musica Amphion under harpsichordist Pieter-Jan Belder, who founded the ensemble in 1993. When the earlier version of the set was reviewed here almost six years ago, Jonathan Woolf found much to be positive about. Though he was not unreservedly enthusiastic about the Opp. 1 and 2 recordings in particular.
Nothing has changed: for all their reliable approach, and even with the presence of established players like Jaap Ter Linden, William Wroth and Mike Fentross playing cello, Baroque trumpet and theorbo/guitar respectively, the music-making does at times lack zest. The opening movement of Op. 2, No. 1 [CD.2 tr.1], for example, almost plods. There's a consistent holding back, an evenness of pacing and perhaps even a gentility in movements, whole concerti too, where we have come to expect, if not fireworks, then certainly a little more flare. But this 'evenness' has the unfortunate side effect of diminishing the contrast between slow and fast movements.
The last two movements of the Trio Sonata, Op. 1 No.6 [CD.1 trs.23.24], for example, sound in places more like Monteverdi than the forger of modern violin technique. The adagio is neither dull not lack-lustre. But it's very very … measured. That this almost staid interpretation comes with great precision offsets any lack of excitement that we may feel. Similarly, the arpeggiated runs towards the end of Op. 1 No.8 [CD.1 tr.31] could have been so much more springy.
On the other hand, this expectation of animation may not be the most finely-tuned. We associate Corelli with spontaneity, uplifting string phrasing, strident, though sparingly-projected, brass and easily-discernible rhythmic insistency. The playing of Musica Amphion goes some - though not all the - way to offering this. Theirs is neither tentative playing, nor are the musicians truly holding back. Just somehow failing to get to the core of the music and expanding its vivacious essence into satisfying wholes.
The advantages of having all of a composer's (known) works in one collection - and played by the same performer(s) - are obvious: consistency of style, familiarity with the composer, ease of reference and availability of supporting notes. There are several dozen other works outside the normally accepted corpus of Corelli which are not otherwise widely available in current recordings. This is a factor which cannot be overlooked.
In the case of Corelli, the surviving known output is small enough for the serious collector also to gather all the works individually. There are some outstanding issues to choose from. The Purcell Quartet on Helios 55240 is an example; Manze and Egarr on Harmonia Mundi 907298/99; Kuijken on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77432; Huggett and Trio Sonnerie on Virgin Classics Veritas 90840. All good, stylish and convincing accounts.
Brilliant hasn't exactly pushed the boat out on support or presentation: the booklet for getting on for ten hours' worth of music is barely half a dozen pages. There are no track listings, no indications of whether and which performers from Musica Amphion are at work in which pieces. The recording is dry and close; it only just avoids being dead.
Few of these performances are the best available. Nevertheless, they come close to inspiring in places. The set is valuable as a single survey of the great composer's work - especially since it contains many items otherwise unavailable. The period instruments sound well, the playing throughout is accomplished and achieved with a certain almost nonchalance that suggests the players are very familiar with the music. Try a movement or two to see, though, if their style enhances or detracts too much from Corelli's verve. The players certainly cannot be accused of jauntiness … nor yet of having drained the life out of the composer's works. The best term for this extremely reasonably-priced box of ten CDs is a 'reference set'.
-- Mark Sealey, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Concerti grossi (12), Op. 6 by Arcangelo Corelli
Written: 1708-1712; Rome, Italy
Sinfonia in D minor by Arcangelo Corelli
Written: Rome, Italy
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