Avison: Six Sonatas for Two Violins and a Bass, Op. 1; Six Harpsichord Sonatas, Op. 8

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COMPOSERS: Avison
LABELS: Divine Art
WORKS: Six Sonatas for Two Violins and a Bass, Op. 1; Six Harpsichord Sonatas, Op. 8
PERFORMER: Avison Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: dda 21214

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Avison’s ‘Six sonatas for two violins and a bass’ Op. 1 are attractive Italianate ‘church’ sonatas – Avison was a pupil of Geminiani, in turn a pupil of Corelli. They feature Corellian ingenuity – shifting harmony, studiously avoiding cadences, (No. 1); a haunting sequence slipping without a break into an adagio (No. 2).

The interplay of all three instruments is neatly managed, the cello often a melodic equal to the violins, especially in the French Overture opening No. 3. The playing is committed and, with five sonatas in the minor mode, often impassioned. The recording sound is excellent.

Avison’s six Op. 8 sonatas are markedly different, written for a solo keyboard that is musically self-sufficient, but with two ad lib violins and cello. They reflect his admiration, acknowledged in his ‘Advertisement’, for Rameau and CPE Bach.

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The sonority suffers from his astringent tone of high violins, avoiding competition with the harpsichord’s middle register, while some of the music is frankly uninspired – harmonic minimalism in a March, a banal folk-like melody as the basis for a set of variations, but no less a light diversion now than in 18th-century Newcastle-upon-Tyne. George Pratt