Corelli: Sonate da camera, Op. 2

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COMPOSERS: Corelli
LABELS: Tactus
WORKS: Sonate da camera, Op. 2
PERFORMER: Il Ruggiero
CATALOGUE NO: TC 650306
Corelli’s trio sonatas enjoyed immediate success. Dozens of editions took them all over Europe, from Italy to Holland, England, France, Spain and Austria. Op. 2 consists of chamber sonatas, a Prelude followed by dance movements – Allemanda, Corrente, Gavotta…, and a final Giga. Their strength lies above all in their harmonic direction and purposefulness though it is in this very set that Corelli perpetrated the breach of harmonic rules which led to a bitter pamphlet war: the Allemanda of No. 3 has a descending sequence of root-position chords creating a grammatical ‘error’ which plagues students to this day. They immediately struck the performers at an early private hearing who ‘began to look at each other… one of them [said] they seemed all [consecutive] fifths’.

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You will hear these in this recording – but alas! from scrawny violins creating gluey lines, exacerbated by a reverberant acoustic. I longed for a shaft of daylight to penetrate the murky textures at cadences, if not sculpting pathways leading to them. The Sarabanda of No. 5, for example, four-bar phrases with delightfully subtle cross-rhythms – hemiolas – at the end, is remorselessly sustained. Only occasionally – as in the Adagio of No. 4 – do Corelli’s own rests lift the heavy veil of unrelenting sound. George Pratt