Corelli: Sonatas for Strings. Vol. 4

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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Sonatas for Strings. Vol. 4
PERFORMER: Purcell Quartet
Given the predominance of Vivaldi in the catalogue these days, we do well to remember the astonishing popularity of the sonatas and concertos of Corelli throughout Europe in the 18th century. In England alone he had swept all before him in the early 1700s and remained an enduring influence for the rest of the century. His music may not possess the sheer hummability of Vivaldi’s, nor its rhythmic energy, but it has a purity and freshness which repay attention.

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The Purcell Quartet gets the best out of much of this music. Infectious, with cleverly-crafted bass lines, these performances abound with energy and intelligence. The players realise, quite rightly, that not all the attention should be focused on the two violin lines and so vary the continuo pleasantly throughout. There are frequent and delightfully unexpected touches: for instance, the piano shading at the end of the Giga of Op. 4/7 or the fantastical opening of Op. 4/12. My main complaint is that the recording is larger than life and the harpsichord sound is at times too aggressive. Slightly less resonance might have saved the occasional blush where intonation fails. But there is also much to enjoy, and with a splendid set of sleeve notes as guide, no need to hang back. Jan Smaczny