WORKS: Concerti grossi, Op. 6/1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
PERFORMER: Europa Galante/Fabio Biondi
CATALOGUE NO: 111 OPS 30-147 DDD
Though he published only a handful of works, Arcangelo Corelli was a major figure in early Baroque music. A celebrated violinist and composer, he also pioneered ensemble discipline: Domenico Scarlatti, who worked with him in Rome, reports seeing Corelli drill his orchestra so that ‘their bows should all move exactly together, all up, all down’.
Corelli’s twelve Op. 6 Concerti grossi represent a perfect model of the form, the music divided between a concertino (here two violins, one cello) and the larger ripieno group. The first eight are concerti da chiesa, pointing to the genre’s origins in church music, and their slow movements retain a solemn, ceremonial air, even though traces of dance music creep into the faster allegros and vivaces. Corelli’s great skill was to alternate such contrasts rapidly, with a dazzling variety of invention, while maintaining a formal balance and cohesion.
Europa Galante’s small ripieno means its disc of Nos 1-6 is remarkable for its light textures, fast tempi and mercurial exchanges. The music certainly loses much of its grandeur – for that quality, try Ensemble 415 (Harmonia Mundi) – but has instead a coruscating liveliness that is rich in detail and superbly executed. Corelli would surely approve such high-speed synchronised bowing. Graham Lock