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LABELS: OUR Recordings
WORKS: Six Sonatas, Op. 5 Nos 7-12
PERFORMER: Michala Petri (recorder), Mahan Esfahani (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 6.220610 (hybrid CD/SACD)


A decade after Corelli’s Op. 5 Violin Sonatas were introduced to England, writer and musician Roger North observed, ‘It is wonderful what a scratching of Corelli there is everywhere – nothing will relish but Corelli’. The set represented the defining moment of the early Baroque violin sonatas, and it wasn’t just violinists doing the relishing. Recorder transcriptions abounded, and Michala Petri addresses the ‘sonata da camera’ leg of Op. 5 in the company of a harpsichordist fast turning into a serial and lively collaborator: Mahan Esfahani. Not since Richard Egarr teamed up with Andrew Manze (Harmonia Mundi) has Op. 5 enjoyed such vivacious and inventive continuo realisation.

Petri and Esfahani’s is an invigorating ensemble effort, each sparking off the other to foster a captivating directness whether sparkling or soulful. Nothing is safe or reverential, and yet there’s no iconoclastic agenda either. Preludios are ideally urbane; an almost Bachian dialogue invades No. 8’s Giga, while La Folia emerges beautifully paced, artfully embellished and vividly characterised. Compared to the violin, there’s an inevitable chaste innocence to the liquid sound of Petri’s recorder – which Esfahani is able to subvert with sly humour. If the violin (as wielded by Manze) remains Op. 5’s true home, the perspective provided by this newcomer undoubtedly relishes.


Paul Riley