ARCANGELO CORELLI: Opus 6: Concerti Grossi [TrackList follows] – The Avison Ensemble/ Pavlo Beznosiuk, dir. & violin – Linn multichannel SACD CKD 411 (2 discs), 65:10, 64:27 [Distr. by Naxos] (10/15/12) ****:
Corelli’s published works are few, but they impacted European classical music from the mid-1700s thru the early 1800s. In England his works were in high regard and many composers were influenced by them. The dozen Op. 6 Concerti Grossi may be his very best works. Published in 1714, they are some of the finest examples of the baroque concertos which have a concertino group (1st violin, 2nd violin, cello) plus a ripieno group (1st violins, 2nd violins, violas, cellos and continuo). The ripieno largely doubles or reinforces the concertino to produce a chiaroscuro effect. The first eight are considered concerti a chiesa while the last four are concerti da camera. The various short movements that the Concerti Grossi consist of were written at various times and for different occasions. Some involve older works of Corelli, but revised carefully so as to fit seamlessly into the new concerti.
The Concerto No. 8 is subtitled “Fatto per la notte di Natale” and is popularly known as The Christmas Concerto. In its final Pastorale movement Corelli sets a pastoral scene with the biblical shepherds, imitating the drone of their pipes or bagpipes. All the Concerti are highly refined and some have extremely virtuosic parts. Thus they have withstood the ravages of time and remained popular for centuries.
There is only one other SACD set of all the Op. 6 Concerti Grossi on the Brilliant Classics label and it lacks the fidelity and performance level of this set from Linn. However, there is a single PentaTone SACD of selected Concerti Grossi from Op. 6 by Simon Murphy and the New Dutch Academy. Like this one, it uses authentic instruments and is beautifully performed. It has somewhat richer sonics, spritelier tempi and greater signal on the surround channels, but it is good to have the complete set of the Concerti Grossi on this Linn release. The leader of the Avison Ensemble—Ukrainian/Irish violinist Pavlo Beznosiuk—is quite a virtuosi and keeps this set of the Concerti Grossi at a high level. The hi-res surround recording was just made last year in London. The note booklet is well-written and worth reading.