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Charles Avison

Biography

Born: February 16, 1709; Newcastle-on-Tyne, England   Died: May 9, 1770; Newcastle-on-Tyne, England  
Charles Avison was an important English composer and musician of the last half of the eighteenth century. His father, Richard Avison, was a town musician in Newcastle who probably taught him at home. With the help of Ralph Jenison, a wealthy arts patron who was also a member of Parliament, and other wealthy men, Avison was able to continue his musical studies. There are contemporary accounts saying that he studied with Geminiani when that Read more composer was in England. However, there is no solid basis for claims that he studied on the Continent.

The first documentation of his musical career was a benefit concert he gave in London at Hickford's Room on March 20, 1734. On June 1, 1736, he took up a position as organist of St. John's Church in Newcastle, which had just had an organ installed. Legend has it that he turned down job offers from London, Dublin, York, and Edinburgh in its favor. In October he accepted another position, at St. Nicholas Church (now Cathedral) and retained that position until his death.

He remained active in secular music. Taking a lead from the success of a subscription concert series in London, he started a similar enterprise in Newcastle in 1735. It was successful, and he received a formal appointment as its musical director in 1738. In 1737, he married Catherine Reynolds. Only three of their nine children survived to adulthood. Both surviving sons were also professional musicians, one of them succeeding him as organist at St. Nicholas.

He spread his musical activities more widely, initiating another successful set of subscription concerts, this time in Durham. In addition to his church activities and concert series, he also gave theatrical performances in both Durham and Newcastle. In addition, he took on students, teaching harpsichord, violin, and flute.

Avison is also known as an essayist on music. His set of Concertos, Op. 3 contained a lengthy preface on performing practice. He expanded on this in a book, An Essay on Musical Expression, which is also the first book of music criticism published in English. Of its three main parts, the first discuss the effect of music on emotion and character. The second is a systematic discussion and critique of certain composers and their styles. Part three is a systematic discussion of instrumental performing practice. The second edition of the book also contained a section on "music of the ancients" and a lengthy response to a book-length criticism of the original version. The book, which was so well-regarded that it was translated into German, was actually a joint work by a "junto," the other members of which declined to be identified. It remains a highly valued look into musical life and opinion and proper performance of music of the time.

Avison wrote 60 string concerto grossi, plus 12 more that are arrangements of harpsichord sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti. He also wrote concertos for organ or harpsichord, but many of these are arrangements of the string concertos or music of other composers, and they follow the example of Geminiani. His melodies are particularly pleasing and easy to remember and follow, but they are not particularly deep in content. He also wrote an amount of chamber music, including sonatas, which he seems initially to have modeled on Rameau's music. Especially good examples are his keyboard sonatas with accompaniment from other instruments, primarily two violins and cellos, which primarily add only supporting harmonies. He wrote little sacred music and only three such works survive, in addition to a portion of an oratorio that he wrote with several other composers. Read less
Avison: Twelve Concertos Op 6 / Beznosiuk, Et Al
Release Date: 08/17/2004   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8557553-54   Number of Discs: 2
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Avison: Concertos Op 3 & 4 / Beznosiuk, Avison Ensemble
Release Date: 02/21/2006   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8557905-06   Number of Discs: 2
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Browse 1-22 of 22 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    The Argo Years / Neville Marriner, Academy Of St Martin In The Fields [28-CD Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002081902 Release Date: 06/03/2014   Number of Discs: 28
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Arcangelo Corelli,  Giuseppe Torelli,  Pietro Antonio Locatelli  ... 
    Performer:  Gwynne Howell,  Philip Langridge,  Anna Reynolds,  Elly Ameling  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chorus,  Philip Jones Brass Ensemble
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    CD: $163.49
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  • 2.
    A Grand Concert of Musick / Pinnock [CD & Catalog]
    Label: Archiv Produktion (Dg)   Catalog: 001833102 Release Date: 06/18/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Stanley,  Thomas Augustine Arne,  William Boyce,  Francesco Geminiani  ... 
    Performer:  Simon Standage,  Trevor Pinnock
    Conductor:  Trevor Pinnock
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Concert
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  • 3.
    A Golden Treasury Of Georgian Music
    Label: Amon Ra   Catalog: 66 Release Date: 01/11/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Thomas Augustine Arne,  John Stanley,  James Hook,  Karl Friedrich Abel  ... 
    Performer:  Lucie Skeaping,  John Potter,  John Toll,  Richard Wistreich
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Broadside Band,  London Baroque,  The City Waites
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  • 4.
    English Music Of The 18th Century / The London Baroque
    Label: Amon Ra   Catalog: 14 Release Date: 01/11/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Stanley,  Thomas Augustine Arne,  Charles Avison,  Karl Friedrich Abel  ... 
    Performer:  John Toll
    Conductor:  Charles Medlam
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Baroque
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  • 5.
    The Trio Sonata In 18th-century England / London Baroque
    Label: Bis   Catalog: 1765 Release Date: 08/31/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  (Earl of Kelly) Erskine,  Karl Friedrich Abel,  Thomas Augustine Arne,  William Boyce  ... 
    Performer:  Steven Devine,  Charles Medlam,  Ingrid Seifert,  Richard Gwilt
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Baroque
    CD: $21.49
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  • 6.
    Avison: Sonatas For Harpischord Op 5 & 7 / Avison Ensemble
    Label: Divine Art   Catalog: 21215 Release Date: 07/13/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Charles Avison
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Avison Ensemble
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  • 7.
    Avison: Sonatas Op 1 & Op 8 / Avison Ensemble
    Label: Divine Art   Catalog: 21214 Release Date: 06/01/2009   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Charles Avison
    Performer:  Pavlo Besnosiuk,  Robert Howarth,  Caroline Balding,  Richard Tunnicliffe  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Avison Ensemble
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  • 8.
    Avison: 12 Concerti Grossi After Scarlatti / Avison Ensemble
    Label: Divine Art   Catalog: 21213 Release Date: 03/01/2009   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Charles Avison
    Conductor:  Pavlo Beznosiuk
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Avison Ensemble
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  • 9.
    Avison: Concerti Grossi Op. 9-10 / Beznosiuk, Avison Ensemble
    Label: Divine Art   Catalog: 21211 Release Date: 12/09/2008   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Charles Avison
    Conductor:  Pavlo Beznosiuk
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Avison Ensemble
    CD: $24.99
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  • 10.
    Play Me My Songs - Eccles, Bononcini, Avison, Geminiani, Handel, Barsanti / Cipriani, Il Falcone
    Label: Dynamic   Catalog: 612 Release Date: 11/25/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Charles Avison,  Giovanni Bononcini,  Francesco Barsanti  ... 
    Conductor:  Fabrizio Cipriani
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Falcone
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  • 11.
    Avison/Scarlatti: 12 Concerti Grossi / Neville Marriner
    Label: Philips Duo   Catalog: 438806 Release Date: 11/27/2007   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Charles Avison
    Performer:  Denis Vigay,  Nicholas Kraemer,  Malcolm Latchem,  Iona Brown
    Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
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  • 12.
    Avison: 12 Concerti Grossi After Scarlatti / Roy Goodman
    Label: Hyperion Dyad   Catalog: 22060 Release Date: 06/12/2007   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Charles Avison
    Conductor:  Roy Goodman
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
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  • 13.
    Avison: Concerti From Opus 9 / Georgian Concert
    Label: Divine Art   Catalog: 24108 Release Date: 10/24/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Avison
    Performer:  Duncan Druce,  Jane McDermott,  John Treherne,  Rebekah Durston  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Georgian Concert
    CD: $14.99
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  • 14.
    Avison: Concertos Op 3 & 4 / Beznosiuk, Avison Ensemble
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8557905-06 Release Date: 02/21/2006   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Charles Avison
    Performer:  Pavlo Beznosiuk
    Conductor:  Pavlo Beznosiuk
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Avison Ensemble
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  • 15.
    Avison: Twelve Concertos Op 6 / Beznosiuk, Et Al
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8557553-54 Release Date: 08/17/2004   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Charles Avison
    Conductor:  Pavlo Beznosiuk
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Avison Ensemble
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  • 16.
    Avison: Concertos In Seven Parts / Cafe Zimmermann
    Label: Alpha Productions   Catalog: 31 Release Date: 07/20/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Avison
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Café Zimmermann
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  • 17.
    Vivaldi: Stabat Mater, Etc;  Scarlatti: Salve Regina / Lamon, Lemieux, Et Al
    Label: Analekta   Catalog: 23171 Release Date: 10/21/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Domenico Scarlatti,  Charles Avison,  Antonio Vivaldi
    Performer:  Marie-Nicole Lemieux
    Conductor:  Jeanne Lamon
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tafelmusik
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  • 18.
    Die Rohre - The Tube / Stuttgarter Kammerorchester
    Label: Tacet   Catalog: 74 Release Date: 05/01/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Antonio Vivaldi,  George Frideric Handel,  Charles Avison,  Giovanni Battista Sammartini  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra
    SuperAudio CD: $22.49
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  • 19.
    Historic Organs Of Boston - Thirty-one Historic Pipe Organs
    Label: Raven Recordings   Catalog: 20 Release Date: 04/29/2003   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Robert Schumann,  Matthias Weckmann,  John Jenkins,  Louis-Nicolas Clérambault  ... 
    Performer:  Kimberly Ann Hess,  Peter Sykes,  Margaret Irwin-Brandon,  Andrew Scanlon  ... 
    Conductor:  Edith Ho
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Church of the Advent Choir
    On sale! $51.98
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  • 20.
    Baroque Adagios
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 470460 Release Date: 02/12/2002   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Antonio Vivaldi,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Henry Purcell  ... 
    Performer:  Sir Neville Marriner,  Trevor Connah,  Tommaso Ruta,  Gino Del Vescovo  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner,  Raymond Agoult,  Anthony Lewis,  Iona Brown  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  I Musici,  New Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $16.99
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  • 21.
    Die Rohre - The Tube / Stuttgarter Kammerorchester
    Label: Tacet   Catalog: 74 Release Date: 10/15/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Charles Avison,  Giovanni Battista Sammartini,  Luigi Boccherini  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra
    CD: $21.49
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  • 22.
    Pachelbel: Canon 7 Gigue;  Et Al / Pinnock, English Concert
    Label: Archiv Produktion (Dg)   Catalog: 415518 Release Date: 10/25/1990   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Tomaso Albinoni,  Antonio Vivaldi,  Charles Avison,  George Frideric Handel  ... 
    Performer:  Trevor Pinnock
    Conductor:  Trevor Pinnock
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Concert
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