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Francesco GEMINIANI (1687-1762)
Dir Zauberwald - orchestral concerto (1754)
Concerto Grosso Op.7 Nos. 4 in D minor and 6 in B flat major (1748)
La Stagione Frankfurt/Michael Schneider
Recorded Funkhaus, Sendesaal, Cologne, July 2003
CAPRICCIO 67 081 [58.10]

Less well-known perhaps than similar works by Handel and Corelli, these Concerti grossi are ripely imaginative and warm textured works that repay close listening. Geminiani’s late works were not universally well received but listening now one is struck anew by his invention and mastery of genres – by his Telemann-like command of national styles and musical traits. He is commendably unafraid to vary texture, to delay the tutti and to play with expected notions of form; in the Fourth, recorded here, we have an unusually shaped multi-partite finale, which employs a fetching Pastorale at its centre. So Geminiani makes for ingenious listening and the little D minor shows immediately in its Andante first movement (the first of two) how well he writes for woodwind (specifically the flutes) and for yielding and pliant string responses. Similarly the wandering harmonies of the Affettuoso of No. 6 vie for interest with the opening adagio section of the final, sixth movement. This employs old English viola da gamba sonorities in a conspicuously successful pan-European fusion.

Coupled with these two Concerti grossi we have The Enchanted Forest, a two-part orchestral work that is derived from a ballet-pantomime first performed in Paris in 1754. It took Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata and over five acts expounded scenes from the Crusaders’ siege of Jerusalem. There are some musico-pictorial moments – there’s a tremendous storm, almost to rival Handel, and a tree-felling episode as well - but it’s difficult otherwise to relate the surviving music to any other particular scene. What we have now is essentially an orchestral work of great attractiveness. The horns of original instrument La Stagione Frankfurt are in good flaring form in the First Part Allegro moderato [No.4] and Geminiani cultivates real expressive nobility in the opening Andante affettuoso of the Second Part – the melody has a kind of semi-explicit vocal impress – an operatic aria without words. The Second Part ends in triumph, taken at a firm tempo, its expressive potential intact.

The recording is sympathetically balanced and Capriccio’s booklets, as ever (I find) are well designed and thoughtfully annotated.

Jonathan Woolf

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