LABELS: LINN RECORDS
ALBUM TITLE: Corelli: Church Sonatas
WORKS: Church Sonatas, Opp. 1 & 3
PERFORMER: The Avison Ensemble
The Avison Ensemble began their complete Corelli series in 2012 with the celebrated Concerti Grossi Op. 6, before turning their sights to the earlier, and more intimate, violin and trio sonatas. This two-disc set, comprising the Trio Sonatas Opp. 1 and 3, brings the cycle to a close. Both collections, dating from the 1680s, consist of so-called ‘church sonatas’ (sonate da chiesa) – the term something of a misnomer since they seem not to have been played in church, though their muted serenity would have been a fine complement to private devotion. An obsessive perfectionist, Corelli polished these works into gleaming gems. As a composer who played the violin, he wrote for the instrument idiomatically – Corelli was never flashy, unlike his more flamboyant younger contemporary Vivaldi.
I have enjoyed every one of the discs in this series from Linn Records so far, and this last set more than lives up to expectations. The five members of The Avison Ensemble parley with the familiarity of old friends, yet their playing always retains that sense of gracious etiquette associated with the noble Roman academies for which the music was intended. Nothing is forced or exaggerated or overly mannered; tempos, ensemble and balance – all seem effortlessly and intuitively right. The string sound is lucid, while a chamber organ and an archlute add warmth to the continuo. These are, in sum, sincere and poised accounts, a fitting tribute to the ‘chaste and faultless’ character of the composer and his music. Kate Bolton