Corelli: Sonatas for Viola da Gamba and Basso Continuo, Op. 5/3, 5, 7, 10 & 11

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COMPOSERS: Corelli
LABELS: Symphonia
WORKS: Sonatas for Viola da Gamba and Basso Continuo, Op. 5/3, 5, 7, 10 & 11
PERFORMER: Guido Balestracci, Eunice Brandão (viola da gamba), Gaetano Nasillo (cello), Eduardo Egüez (theorbo), Massimiliano Raschietti (harpsichord, organ)
CATALOGUE NO: SY 98163
Among many contemporary transcriptions of Corelli’s immensely popular violin sonatas is this, for viola da gamba. Such an arrangement creates inevitable problems of texture, the solo instrument an octave lower than Corelli intended. At times, too, the harmony becomes inverted, or else the continuo growls deeper still to avoid it. Despite the reedy quality of the gamba, it is further clouded in the first sonata here (no.III) by the choice of chamber organ as keyboard continuo. Yet where the bass line permits lightly detached organ chords, (X, Allemanda, for example), the effect is delightful – and even more so when the organ – and its rumbling blower – are silenced, leaving the haunting simplicity of gamba and bass line alone (X, Sarabanda). By the final two movements of this tenth sonata, the balance problems have been resolved in an arrestingly vivacious Gavotta and Giga.

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Two of the sonatas use harpsichord continuo, much more transparent, and revealing fluent and sensitive playing of ornaments. Some are Corelli’s own, others Balestracci’s own invention. Most fill in and re-compose the line in a stylish Italian manner, rather than hanging decorations upon it in the French fashion. A charming and fascinating disc, despite its patches of ill-balanced sound. George Pratt