A masterclass in Baroque string playing
Volume 3 of the Avison Ensemble’s chamber music extravaganza commemorating the 300th anniversary of Corelli’s death focuses on the 24 Chamber Sonatas opp.2 and 4. These works demonstrate the full gamut of Corellian gestures which, clichéd though many may seem, occasionally venture beyond the predictable.
Violinists Pavlo Beznosiuk and Caroline Balding give poised, idiomatic and mostly unanimous accounts, matching each other like twins in passages of imitation and dialogue and pliant phrasing. Only occasionally are there hints of untidiness at the beginnings of some correntes. Their tempos are generally well judged and they supply extempore ornamentation in tasteful doses. They revel in the suspensions and harmonic adventure of the preludios and capture the character of these sonatas’ relatively conservative range of dances. Highlights for me include the Allemanda of op.2 no.10 with its trumpet-like fanfares, the imitative Corrente of op.4 no.2, the expressive Sarabanda of op.2 no.2, the rousing Gavotta of op.4 no.9 (with its resemblances to the penultimate movement of the composer’s Christmas Concerto op.6 no.8), the Ciaccona of op.2 no.12 and the countless lively gigas. Of those movements not inspired by dance, the intense Adagio of op.2 no.3, played here with only lute accompaniment, and the Grave of op.4 no.9 are especially effective.
Variation of textural colour is provided largely by ringing the continuo changes between the harpsichord, organ and archlute. Occasionally, too, the gamba is tacet or plays without continuo ‘filler’. Additional sonority is gained from adoption of late 17th-century Roman pitch (about a tone lower than modern pitch). The church recording has exemplary immediacy and presence.
Clip: Corelli Trio Sonata op.2 no.10: I. Allemanda