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Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713)
La Folia - Chamber works: Sonata de chiesa in G major Op. 1no. 9 [5.22]; Violin Sonata in C major Op. 5 no. 3 [10.44]; Sonata da camera in A major Op. 4 no. 3 [6.58]; Viola da gamba Sonata in D major [7.42]; Sonata da camera in G major ‘Ciaccona’ Op. 2 no. 12 [2:54]; Violin Sonata in D minor ‘La Folia’ Op. 5 no. 12 [10:01]; Sonata da camera in E minor Op. 2 no. 4 [6.40]; Sonata da Chiesa in A major Op. 3 no. 12 [6.38]
The Purcell Quartet (Catherine Mackintosh (violin); Elizabeth Wallfisch (violin); Richard Boothby (cello, viola da gamba); Robert Woolley (harpsichord, organ); Richard Campbell (cello))
rec. 22-23 May 1986 (no venue given)

Experience Classicsonline

When in 1986 I first bought the LP version of this disc in
Oxford the shop assistant quite rightly commented that the record gave an excellent overall perspective of Corelli’s chamber music compositions. For teaching purposes it was just right and it came at a time when encountering Corelli’s music on original instruments was still not that common. Returning to this issue, now on Hyperion’s budget label, I still feel the same way: it makes an excellent introduction to the composer using pieces from many of his early works. The performances, which are first class, demonstrate well-blended artistry and variety of ensemble textures.  It set a worthy standard. 

The disc is named after a seemingly insignificant melody which had been popular since the renaissance. As was common at the time, Corelli sets out to impress with a virtuoso sequence of variations or doubles for solo violin and continuo on ‘La Folia’. The piece has attracted much attention over the last twenty years especially as an encore. In his useful notes Tim Crawford adds that the role of the accompanist is not forgotten and that “the sonata ends with a sequence of dazzling semiquavers for the basso continuo”. However it is not typical of the calm and dignified manner of the rest of the music here. 

We cannot say when exactly Corelli wrote these works. We can only go by certain publication dates. The Sonatas da chiesa found the press in 1681 and more followed in 1689. Many of the violin sonatas, as we have them, were printed in 1700. 

The Sonatas da camera - published in 1685 and then added to in 1694 - and da chiesa were multi-movement works with the many movements split into short, contrasting sections. In the ‘camera’ or chamber works dance names are given for each - for instance ‘Corrente’ and ‘Sarabanda’. These the Purcell Quartet accompany with harpsichord continuo. In the ‘Sonatas da chiesa’ (so called Church Sonatas) only speed indications are offered. They are given the more solemn organ as continuo in line with common practice. In some other recordings the archlute is preferred. The abovementioned virtuosity can be encountered in other works, for example the opening of the A major Sonata da chiesa from the Op. 3 set. This tends towards a more showy style in general. The Op. 1 sonata - presumably written when Corelli was a very young man beginning to make his name - also displays virtuoso antiphonal effects between the two violins. 

The Viola da gamba sonata has curious antecedents. Corelli was popular in England and arrangements were made of the Op. 5 sonatas for recorder and continuo. They are represented here by two others from the publication. In 1713 two of them appeared in anonymous arrangements for the still popular but outdated Viola da gamba. It is possible that the arrangements are German. In any event they are virtuoso and are obviously down an octave from the originals. The present example is now in D but was composed in E major. Anyway it sounds very suitable and Richard Boothby gets his fingers around the tricky passages with panache and flare. 

All in all this is a most welcome release and, as indicated, acts as an excellent introduction to Corelli’s music outside the more often heard Concerti Grossi - which anyway come towards the end of his career. The music is compelling and can be quite meltingly beautiful or foot-tappingly happy. Buy it. 

Gary Higginson 



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