Corelli: Concerti grossi, Op. 6

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COMPOSERS: Corelli
LABELS: Tactus
WORKS: Concerti grossi, Op. 6
PERFORMER: Modo Antiquo
CATALOGUE NO: TC 650307, 650308
The 12 concertos of Op. 6 are among the most versatile music of their age. Corelli superimposed a string orchestra on the trio sonata – two violins, cello and keyboard continuo – alternating forte with the soloists’ piano, and sometimes doubling them throughout a movement. So these pieces, for which Corelli himself is reported to have once had 150 players, still work in the skimpiest of textures – just the three soloists playing.

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Now Modo Antiquo has truly put the cat among the pigeons: the players have added wind and brass as well. There’s some strong scholarly evidence to support them – records of payments to specified instrumentalists hired by Corelli. But equally strong is the evidence within the music itself. Oboes, colouring the Christmas Concerto for instance, are delightful though not surprising – Handel added them to some of his Corellian-style concertos; recorders add a pastoral gloss to string tone (No. 2). But when sparkling trumpets appear, they demonstrate with astonishing conviction that some of these ‘string’ parts have all the idiomatic characteristics of Baroque natural trumpets – they’re not ‘violinistic’ after all (Second movement, No. 7), though pushed to their technical limits (Fourth movement, No. 4).

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With brightly articulated playing, imaginative ornamentation and spacious recording, this a fundamental re-appraisal of Corelli. An amazing revelation. George Pratt