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Corelli: Sonate A 3 Opera Quarta, Roma, 1694 / Gatti, Ensemble Aurora

Corelli / Ensemble Aurora / Gatti
Release Date: 11/27/2012 
Label:  Glossa   Catalog #: 921207  
Composer:  Arcangelo Corelli
Conductor:  Daniele Gatti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aurora Ensemble
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CORELLI Trio Sonatas, Op. 4 Ens Aurora (period instruments) GLOSSA 921207 (2 CDs: 86:05)

Arcangelo Corelli composed very little compared to the outputs of his contemporaries, but that little echoed through the generations. His four books of trio sonatas blurred the distinctions between church and chamber examples of the form. Their jeweled perfection makes them relevant on today’s programs for reasons musical rather than simply historical.

Read more /> The Ensemble Aurora (violinists Enrico Gatti and Rosella Croce, cellist Judith Maria Blomsterberg, as well as Gabriele Balomba, archlute, and Fabio Ciofini, harpsichord) have, according to the notes, returned to the earliest Roman and Bolognese editions of the work, bypassing on their way Friedrich Chrysander’s once popular edition, which they consider to be, in addition to its errors, inauthentic and too modern in its realizations of the bass. The set opens with a loud, heavy breath and continues through the sonatas in what seems an almost random order (6, 12, 4, 5 1, 10, 3, 8, 7, 9, 2, and 11). The sonatas comprise a varied number of movements, though always beginning with a slow Preludio, followed by a number of dances: Allemande, Corrente, Sarabanda, Giga, and Gavotta, interspersing among them movements with Italian titles. The instrumentalists seem to have been captured very close up in the Teatro Cucinelli in Salomeo, perhaps brightening timbres somewhat damped by the Ensemble’s choice of a=400 (which they trace to Roman usage). Unlike many groups devoted to period performance, they’re somewhat reserved in creating dynamic contrasts (in the Fifth Sonata’s Allemanda or the following Corrente, the dynamic contrasts hardly jump out to frighten the listener. But they’re alert to opportunities for timbral creativity; they create textures at the same time brittle and supple in the First Sonata’s staccato Adagio.

The Ensemble brings measured gravity to the first movements (at times almost stultifyingly stately, as in the 10th Sonata, but at other times alternating sensitively elegant arched lines as in the 9th or 11th sonatas or enhancing their textures with bubbling, champagne-like, figuration, as in the Third Sonata). They can respond atmospherically to mysteriously suggestive sequences of harmonies, as in the Eighth Sonata, with the two treble lines generally intertwining almost sensuously, ornamented floridly (as in the Preludio: Grave of the Fourth Sonata) or with introductory runs, as in the Preludio: Adagio of the Fifth Sonata; but they’re energetic in the fast movements, like the concluding Giga: Allegro of the 12th Sonata. They occasionally add doubles, as in the Gavotta of the Fifth Sonata, and Enrico Gatti has taken responsibility for these, as he has for placing the ornaments. Finally, they take the opportunity provided by The Eighth Sonata’s Allemanda to let the two upper lines chatter over a bubbling bass line (they create a similar effect with their ornamentation in the 9th Sonata’s Tempo di Gavotta ).

That’s not to say that, in spite of all these felicities, some listeners won’t prefer the more abrasive, though equally inventive, performances of the Purcell Quartet (they split op. 4 between the third and fourth volumes of their series (Chandos 0526 and 0532, respectively) in this repertoire. I didn’t recommend Charles Medlam’s version with the London Baroque (Virgin 5 61210 2 PM 516), which, in any case, contains only op. 4/1. Edward Strickland considered Simon Standage’s selection on Archiv 419 614, a “desert isle” compilation of Corelli, but it’s, similarly, just a sampler—though a very, very good one. (Strickland considered the Purcell Quartet a “distant second,” but that appears to have been an earlier performance than Chandos’s from 1992.) In all, the Ensemble Aurora offers an engaging alternative to both selections and complete sets and can be warmly recommended to collectors seeking only a part of the composer’s opera omnia.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Trio Sonatas (12) for 2 Violins and Basso Continuo, Op. 4 by Arcangelo Corelli
Conductor:  Daniele Gatti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aurora Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1694; Rome, Italy 

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