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Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713)
Sonatas for Violin and Continuo, Op. 5, Nos. 1-6:-
Sonata in D [11:41]
Sonata in B-flat [10:53]
Sonata in C [12:06]
Sonata in F [9:46]
Sonata in g minor [11:06]
Sonata in A [11:30]
Lucy van Dael, violin
Bob van Asperen, harpsichord and organ
Recorded at the Dutch Reformed Church, Bennebroek, Holland from 4-7 November 2002. Performed on period instruments, A= 415Hz.
NAXOS 8.557165 [67:47]


Corelli was highly regarded as a violinist in his day, his techniques and styles emulated by many of his more prolific successors such as Vivaldi and even Bach and Handel. He spent the majority of his career in the service of well-to-do clergymen. Much of his compositional output has apparently been lost, as there is a relatively small body of his work available to us now.

These sonatas, the first half of a set of twelve stand at a sort of crossroads in style and practice, and seem to begin the metamorphosis from the six movement dance suites common in France to the three movement fast-slow-fast arrangement that later composers would come to adopt. At five movements each, only the final section of each work has an obvious holdover from the dance suites with their gigue-like rhythms.

There is some controversy as to whether a third instrument is called for (cello, bassoon or other continuo player) and the original published scores seem to indicate that the works could be played by a combination of cello and violin, with the cellist filling in chords via double stops, or the more likely solution, which is to use a keyboard instrument without the extra reinforcement. Crafted in the sonata di chiesa (church sonata) mode, these works are performed here sometimes with organ, and sometimes with harpsichord.

The renditions are really quite fine. Ms. Van Dael produces a warm tone on her period violin (maker sadly not listed), a trait sometimes missing from period solo performances. She is also not afraid of some overt expressiveness in her playing, and the understated but quite welcome use of rubato from time to time was most refreshing to hear. She is fleet of finger, and her allegri are clean and clear, never rushed. She also applies just the right amount of messa da voce (that ever present hairpin swelling on long notes) to make the slow movements expressive while avoiding the inducement of motion sickness.

I must halt here though to do my duty in pointing out that Ms. Van Dael is one of the notorious sniffer-snorters, those well meaning but aurally obnoxious players that have to tell us just how musical they are by inhaling audibly at every opportunity. I have promised that I will carp on this habit until it is eradicated from all string playing, so here it is. It sounds awful, it is pretentious and not artistic and I hate it with a passion. Please stop.

Mr. van Asperen is a splendid partner to these proceedings with utterly elegant playing at every turn. His continuo realizations are full-throated and well-balanced and everything he does in the way of ornamentation is in splendidly good taste.

Keith Anderson provides an interesting program essay with the proper balance of anecdote and analysis.

In all this is a fine performance, and it is well worth the investment, hay fever and all. We can look forward with anticipation to the second volume, which is surely forthcoming.

Kevin Sutton

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