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Charles AVISON (1709-1770)
Twelve Concerti Grossi (1744) after Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
No.1 in A major [12:15]
No.2 in G major [15:19]
No.3 in D minor [10:17]
No.4 in A minor [16:08]
No.5 in D minor [10:36]
No.6 in D major [13:26]
No.7 in G minor [11:33]
No.8 in E minor [9:57]
No.9 in C major [13:11]
No.10 in D major [7:21]
No.11 in G major [17:43]
No.12 in D major [16:06]
The Avison Ensemble/Pavlo Beznosiuk
rec. 26-30 November 2007, Jubilee Theatre, St. Nicholas' Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne
DIVINE ART DDA21213 [78:14 + 76:38]
Experience Classicsonline

There are fine booklet notes to this very enjoyable pair of CDs. They are by Simon D.I. Fleming, who reminds us that English interest in the music of Domenico Scarlatti was largely a product of the encounter between Thomas Roseingrave and the composer, in Venice, around 1710. The Irishman Roseingrave brought copies of some of Scarlatti's works back to Britain, was responsible for the 1720 London production of Scarlatti's opera Amor d'un'ombra (as Narciso) and, in 1739 published his edition of Scarlatti's Essercizi as XLII Suites de Pieces Pour Le Clavecin.

One early English admirer of Scarlatti's work was Charles Avison. In 1743 he published a single Concerto in Seven Parts done from the Lessons of Sigr Domenico Scarlatti, a publication sufficiently well-received to encourage the publication in the following year of the set of twelve concertos recorded here.

In his Essay on Musical Expression, first published in London in 1752, Avison included a footnote on Domenico Scarlatti (my quotation is taken from the third edition of 1775, p.46), who he describes as 'the author of some excellent lessons for the harpsichord'. He praises him as 'among the great masters of this age', going on to add that 'the invention of his subjects or airs, and the beautiful chain of modulation in all these pieces, are peculiarly his own: and though in many places, the finest passages are greatly disguised with capricious divisions, yet, upon the whole, they are original and masterly'.

In his adaptations of Scarlatti's keyboard works as materials for a set of concertos, Avison operates precisely with that mingled air of admiration and reservation he expresses in the passage just quoted. The very nature of the exercise registers his delight in Scarlatti's music; but the freedom with which he treats his source, adjusting tempi here and there (often quite considerably), rewriting harmonies and adding (and omitting) material also suggests a composer who doesn't feel confined by the work of an admired predecessor.

Most of the movements in these concertos are based on individual sonatas by Scarlatti, their combination into four movement sequences being entirely Avison's work. Sometimes sonatas are transposed; some movements (nine in total, out of forty eight) have no identified source and may be Avison's own work. They stand up to the comparison with Scarlatti very well.

These are fine, loving performances. The slower movements have an attractive lyricism, the faster ones have a crisply rhythmic quality - though I wouldn't have minded hearing the continuo section a bit more prominently. Particular pleasures include the effervescent Allegro and dignified Largo from Concerto No.4 - the largo being one of the movements with no identified source in Scarlatti - and the expressive Andante Moderato from Concerto No.11 which is one of the best of the group when heard whole.

Pavlo Beznosiuk and his ensemble have done the memory of Charles Avison great service with these and other recordings. There is understanding and affectionate respect in all that they do with the music.

Glyn Pursglove

see also reviews by Brian Wilson and Jonathan Woolf



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