Corelli: Trio Sonatas, Op. 1

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LABELS: Pierre Verany
WORKS: Trio Sonatas, Op. 1
PERFORMER: Ensemble Mensa Sonora
The 350th anniversary of Corelli’s birth has so far been modestly celebrated with token appearances of his music in concert schedules and on disc. Hardly surprising, perhaps, since his oeuvre contains no vocal music and his output, by comparison with Legrenzi, Albinoni, Vivaldi et al, is very slender. But we should be very mistaken in thinking that quantity is in any sense commensurate with quality for, in terms of influence and intrinsic merit, Corelli’s music was a potent force both in his native Italy and throughout most of Europe.


Queen Christina, who had renounced the Swedish throne, embraced Catholicism and settled in Rome in the mid-1650s, was Corelli’s first important patron and it was to her that he dedicated his 12 Sonatas ‘da chiesa’, Op. 1, in 1681. They are trio sonatas of the church variety, scored for two violins, cello and an organ which distinguishes these pieces from those of the more closely dance-orientated chamber variety.


The Ensemble Mensa Sonora, based in the French département of Deux-Sèvres, specialises in Baroque chamber music, which it performs with elegance and sensibility. The many contrapuntal movements are played with clarity though not always with incisive definition, and the organ is well integrated into the string texture. Sometimes I felt the need for bolder gestures in pieces such as the toccata-like opening of the Ninth Sonata but, in general, this is amiable and informed music-making. Nicholas Anderson