MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Charles AVISON (1709-1770)
Twelve Concertos Op.6
The Avison Ensemble/Pavlo Beznosiuk
Rec. Jubilee Theatre, St Nicholas’s Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne, January 2003
NAXOS 8.557553-54 [49.16 + 57.37]


Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS


Sovereign in the north-east of England, and Newcastle’s reigning musical eminence grise, it’s always been a puzzle as to why Avison’s name still figures so tentatively in the catalogues, let alone the concert hall. His position as one of the most prestigious of all British concerto composers is certainly not one simply confined to the eighteenth century. Possibly one of the reasons for his comparative neglect lies in his being thought of as an imitator and transcriber rather than a musical instigator, a follower of the Italianate concerto tradition and not an individualist in his own right. Certainly he was profoundly influenced by Corelli and Geminiani – indeed he went so far as to proclaim the latter superior to Handel, a provocation that inevitably led to an exchange of journalistic views. And many of Avison’s most well known pieces are modelled on source works by, say, Rameau (the Six Sonatas Opp 5, 7 and 8) whose music Avison did much to promote in England.

It was inevitable, given that he studied with him, that Avison should so admire Geminiani and as organist, composer, writer and mover and shaker in Newcastle he did much to promote the virtuoso Italian tradition of string writing. The Op.6 Concertos pay tribute both to that tradition and to Avison’s imagination and expressive depth. The Concertos range from unapologetic Italianate fugal writing to, in the final Concertos, an awareness of the contemporary change toward sonata form in the concerto grosso. Copiously marked with an array of expressive markings these Concertos repay a sensitive approach to bring out their emotive heart, along with their Handelian gait and Corellian impetus. I liked the Avison Ensemble’s fine approach to tempo – not over pressed – in the First Concerto and the reduced dynamics in the Adagio section, a microcosm of their approach in general. Rhythm and apposite weight of bowing are notable in the Maestoso opening of the Fifth where they also cultivate (in the finale) a fine and palpable sense of chamber intimacy.

Avison’s Sixth Concerto, so explicitly reminiscent of Italianate procedure as filtered to him through Geminiani, sports an especially fine opening movement (solo violin over cello tread) that is if anything outdone by the third movement Adagio where the fine accents, rise and fall of the line and mysterious writing are notably well explored by the Ensemble. Avison strikes perhaps his starkest note in the grave nobility of the Tenth Concerto’s Adagio and his most delicate in the Allegro of the Eleventh – splendid refinement – where he also gives us yet another example of his "affect" in the expressive slow movement.

In all these things the Avison Ensemble do their namesake proud. Articulation is full of clarity, rhythms are buoyant; if occasionally one would like ideally more weight, then the compensations are those of stylistic understanding and nuance.

Jonathan Woolf

Error processing SSI file

Return to Index

Error processing SSI file