CD Classico

The name of eighteenth-century English composer Charles Avison is best known in Italy because of his arrangement into twelve Concerti Grossi of harpsichord sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti, but the rest of his work, and its importance in the English and European musical panorama of the age is less known, save now for this set of Concerti Grossi arranged from the Opus 1 sonatas for violin and basso continuo by Francesco Geminiani.

This work sheds true light on two aspects of the art and life of Avison – firstly that Avison was the foremost and most brilliant English composer of Concerti Grossi; and secondly his great admiration for Geminiani, who hailed from Lucca but who spent most of his working life in London and Dublin and considered Avison his friend.

The combination of Avison and Geminiani is crucial in understanding the fundamental influence of Italian instrumental music has on the British attitude to the orchestral repertoire (considering that at the time it was opera which was all the rage in Britain, thanks to Handel, Bononcini and Ariosti). Taking a cue from the skilful writing of the Lucchesi composer, Charles Avison was able to draw from the chamber sonatas a palette of orchestral colours which are among the brightest ever created in the baroque period.

We must not forget that the discovery of the manuscripts of these works occurred only about fifteen years ago – between 2000 and 2002 – amongst all of Avison’s workbooks, which amount to over six hundred sheets of manuscript. In fact the scores of only eleven of the Concerti were found, that of number eleven being lost, so for the purpose of this recording Concerto 11 has been arranged by the Avison Ensemble’s director and concertmaster Pavlo Beznosiuk.

The result is that this recording is truly a reference point for the consideration of these works. It is well seen that the Avison Ensemble are considered a team of absolute excellence when it comes to the works of their namesake. So: the brilliance, the fluent phrasing and tempi; the attention to tone and structure, delivered with creativity and grace, and a generous set of programme notes, make this an ideal benchmark recording of these Concerti Grossi. Admirable!

—Andrea Bedetti (translation by Stephen Sutton)