Geminiani, Corelli

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COMPOSERS: Corelli,Geminiani
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Concerti grossi after Corelli’s Op. 5
PERFORMER: Academy of Ancient Music/Andrew Manze (violin); David Watkin (cello)
These 12 concerti grossi, composed by Francesco Geminiani in London and published in two sets of six – the first consisting of the church style sonatas, the second of the chamber style – are based on the Op. 5 violin sonatas by Corelli. They are orchestrations and more, redistributing the solo violin part throughout the orchestra, embellishing lines, filling in the harmonies, showing a real composer’s touch – and that of a formidably gifted violinist – as well as an arranger’s. This recording begins with the considerable advantage of the presence of Andrew Manze as soloist and director. He is that rare creature, a genuine virtuoso of the Baroque violin, and he invests his own performances with a swagger, a sense of freedom, and a fantastic array of sound colours which make them irresistible. This brilliant, involving musicianship is plainly caught by his colleagues. If speeds sometimes tend to the extreme, how refreshing to encounter a Baroque artist who is not afraid to play slow music really slowly, and how thrilling that when the rubber is really burning everything stays crisp and secure. The result is music-making that can only be described as electrifying. I’ve certainly never heard a more thrilling performance of the final concerto, the famous ‘Follia’ variations. Two by-the-ways. First, there’s an absence of rivalry in the catalogue that I find extraordinary given the quality of the music. Second, the standard of presentation is wonderful. Stephen Pettitt