One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             



AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Charles AVISON (1709/10Ė1770)
Six Concertos Op. 3 (1751) [54.43]
Eight Concertos Op. 4 (1755) [76.34]
The Avison Ensemble/Pavlo Beznosiuk (director, violin soloist)
rec. 14-27 October 2004, St. Georgeís Parish Church, Jesmond, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
NAXOS 8.557905-6 [54.43 + 76.34]

Charles Avisonís principal contribution to the record catalogue has so far been his set of Concerti Grossi based on Scarlatti harpsichord sonatas. Thereís more. In fact he wrote a considerable amount of music and it is good to see that the Avison Ensemble and Naxos are remedying the gap. They have already issued Avisonís Op. 6 set of concerti grossi (see reviews by Jonathan Woolf and Johan van Veen) and here we have a recording of his Opp. 3 and 4.
Born and brought up in Newcastle, Avison was initially taught by his father, before moving to London to seek fame, fortune and training at the age of fifteen. It was here that he probably met and studied with Geminiani, who had moved to London in 1714. Avison returned to Newcastle in 1735 to assume the post of organist at St. John the Baptistís Church. From 1736 until his death he was organist at the cityís most important church, St. Nicholas. Avison instituted a series of subscription concerts which were presumably a fertile ground for his own compositions.
In life, Avison was a controversialist, proclaiming that the music of his master Geminiani was far superior to that of Handel. It was to Corelliís and Geminianiís models that Avison turned when writing his own concerti grossi. Generally Avison used the traditional four-movement slow-fast-slow-fast model. But for his Opp. 3 and 4 concertos Avison was a little more adventurous; he not only varies the number of movements but his harmonies depart from the customary practices.
The Op. 3 concertos were published in 1751 and the Op. 4 in 1755. In the extensive preface to the Op. 3 concertos, Avison includes information on performance practice, the number of instruments needed to balance the concertino and ripieno groups and the correct manner of playing the harpsichord.
Here the concertos are played by the Newcastle-based Avison Ensemble, directed by Pavlo Beznosiuk. Beznosiuk and the other unnamed soloists contribute some fine solo playing in the concertino sections and are well supported by the main ensemble. They play Avisonís music with crisp precision and lively bounce, giving it an apposite stylishness.
The ensemble sound a relatively small group; no numbers are given in the CD booklet and the groupís web site was still under construction at the time of writing. Whilst their string sound does not have the luxuriousness of some other groups, they play their chosen composer with wit and style. Their devotion extends beyond playing though: in 2001 and 2002 the group acquired two of the composerís original work-books thus enabling them to extend the Avison repertoire.
The music on this disc does not have the inherent drama of Handelís concerti grossi, but then Handel remained a dramatist no matter what the genre. Avisonís have a more civilised elegance about them and repay repeated listening. His music was enormously popular during his lifetime and it is surprising that such attractive pieces have been allowed to fall out of the repertoire. When Avison has been recorded, it has almost invariably been his concertos based on Scarlatti harpsichord sonatas, as if ensembles did not trust him to have enough imaginative invention in the pieces he created from scratch.
He wrote over fifty orchestral concertos and The Avison Ensemble have already recorded the Op. 6 concertos for Naxos. Given the stylish performances here, I do hope that we can look forward to more.
Robert Hugill


AmazonUK   AmazonUS


For reviews of other releases of British composers by Naxos on Musicweb,
see the themed release page


Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.