This group are made up of six players (or is it seven?) and they produce a rather unusual intimate sound. This works really well in the slow movements but may lack bite in the quick movements. The playing is extremely good and the recording presents no problems.
Charles Avison was born in Newcastle in 1709 and was the city cathedral’s organist from 1736 until his death in 1770. He was a highly intellectual man and organised subscription concerts. He was a gifted writer on music and wrote a treatise on expression in music. The Georgian Consort seem to have this concept in mind. The set of twelve concerti grossi appeared in 1766 and were unusual in that they were written in four parts and so can be played in more than one way, as string quartets, for example. Most concerti grossi had seven parts. The keyboard part was written so that the concerti could be played as harpsichord solos.
The Concerto Grosso is mainly associated with Italy and Europe. There cannot be many British born composers of Avison’s time who wrote in this form. That adds to the interest. I do not have any score of these concerti but what strikes me is the lack of ornate ornamentation that infuses other composers’ concerti grossi.
The eighth concerto has a very telling opening andante cantabile, a siciliana, and will leave listeners guessing. But you buy the disc and be your own detective. The third movement, an adagio, is here given to the keyboard. Three of the concerti end with an unusual finale each time marked aria which, again, may show Avison’s preoccupation with expressive music or the influence of cathedral and church music which was probably mostly sedate in his time.
The predominance of dotted rhythms pervades most of the quick movements but I would have liked more energy in the performances. The elegance is great but there needs to be more spirit in the faster music, I feel. The photo of the consort has a missing person but it is good to see such faithful servants of music like Duncan Druce still giving of his talent, experience and dedication.
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