Corelli, Marais, Vivaldi, A Scarlatti, CPE Bach & Geminiani

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: A Scarlatti,Corelli,CPE Bach & Geminiani,Marais,Vivaldi
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: La Folia
WORKS: Works by Corelli, Marais, Vivaldi, A Scarlatti, CPE Bach & Geminiani
PERFORMER: Robert Woolley (harpsichord) Purcell Quartet, Purcell Band
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67035
Originally a wild Portuguese dance over a recurring harmonic template, La folia (‘insanity’) was slower, more dignified, by the later 17th century. But it still challenged innumerable composers’ ingenuity in varying textures and figurations over its hypnotically predictable bass. Hyperion has ingeniously collated examples from six 1986/87 CDs.

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The programme is cyclic. Elizabeth Wallfisch begins, playing Corelli’s single-movement Folia sonata, wonderfully uninhibited in both her technical fireworks and luscious sustained tone. The disc ends with Geminiani’s arrangement of Corelli’s sonata as a concerto – intriguing despite momentary sour intonation from two-to-a-part orchestral violins.

Vivaldi’s trio-sonata inventions are recorded rather astringently; not so two superb harpsichord variations. Alessandro Scarlatti takes subtly varied routes through the harmonies, transforming chords chromatically – playing on the predictability of the repeating pattern. Robert Woolley ends astonishingly abruptly: his facsimile of Scarlatti’s manuscript has no final simple statement to which the notes mistakenly allude.

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The disc also omits information about the amazing harpsichord Woolley uses for the CPE Bach variations – I’ve discovered it’s a copy of an immense three-manual instrument by Hieronymus Hass, with deep lower-octave bass on the bottom manual and a kaleidoscope of colours elsewhere – reflecting, in fact, the richness of this whole imaginative programme. George Pratt