Goldberg Early Music Magazine

Newcastle-born Charles Avison’s concerto grosso arrangements of Domenico Scarlatti sonatas are now fairly familiar, but these concertos arranged from Francesco Geminiani’s set of 12 Sonatas and Continuo, op. 1 (1716) are likely to be new to most listeners/ They are in fact recent discoveries, having only come to light as recently as 2002. As the excellent booklet note reminds us, it should come as no surprise that Avison should have been drawn to these sonatas, given the mutual admiration he and Geminiani had for the other’s works. Geminiani’s publication followed the standard format of including 6 sonate da chiesa followed by 6 sonate da camera, a pattern followed by Avison, who was largely faithful as to matters like tempo and harmony. There is, however, a striking departure in the case of the final movement of No. 6 in G minor, where Avison concludes with an Andante followed by an extensive set of variations not included in the sonata and scored only in two parts. They are played here by violin and cello.

The performances of this immensely appealing set of concertos are outstanding. The Avison Ensemble includes some of Britain’s finest period instrument players, but what is remarkable is the rich depth of the playing. The broad sonority of some of the movements of the da chiesa concertos is especially impressive, while there is real warmth and expressive sensitivity in such movements as No. 2/iii of the gracious opening Vivace of No. 9 in F. An exceptional issue in every way. *****

—Brian Robins