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Maestro Corelli’s Violins
Giuseppe VALENTINI (1681-1753) 
Concerto Op. 7 No. 11 [17:44]
Antonio MONTANARI (1676-1737)
Concerto Op. 1 No. 7 [9:23]
Giovanni MOSSI (c.1680-1742)
Concerto Op. 4 No. 11 [9:31]
Concerto Op. 1 No. 6 [13:44]
Concerto Op. 1 No. 2 [5:13]
Giovanni MOSSI
Concerto Op. 4 No. 12 [13:20]
Collegium Musicum 90/Simon Standage
rec. August 2016, All Saints’ Church, East Finchley, London.

The title ‘Maestro Corelli’s Violins’ is made clear in the first paragraph of Richard Maunder’s booklet notes for this release. Arcangelo Corelli, faced with sourcing 40 or so extra instrumentalists for a new oratorio by Handel in 1708, hired the three composers represented in this recording for their skills as violinists. Further biographical details are a bit sketchy, but as a fine collection of contemporaneous concerti this historical excuse for once again bringing these names together is as good as any.

I was hugely impressed by Giuseppe Valentini’s Op. 7 concerti on the Alpha Classics label (review), and the Concerto Op. 7 No. 11 is of very high quality. Modelled on Corelli's concerto grosso format, this work has plenty of Vivaldi-like touches to go along with Valentini's impressive individualism that results in a concerto both rousingly energetic and strikingly affecting with its unexpected modulations, especially in the all too brief final movement. Collegium Musicium 90 has a less fully-textured sound when compared to Ensemble 415, but the single-part playing is filled out nicely with archlute and harpsichord.

Valentini is a hard act to follow, but Giovanni Mossi's concertos are very easy on the ear and not without some innovative features. The Concerto Op. 4 No. 12 for instance has eight violins and cello with double bass and continuo but no viola part - and intriguing but surprisingly effective sonority with which to round off this programme, the solo cello at times competing with the large violin groups like an avuncular dance instructor. The Concerto Op. 4 No. 11 is also great fun, responding to the Venetian character of Vivaldi and Albinoni with gusto, and with a gorgeous Adagio as icing on the cake, or buttercream through its middle, whichever you prefer.

Antonio Montanari was born in Modena but established an outstanding reputation as a violinist in Rome, teaching the likes of Johann Georg Pisendel and no doubt many others. His Op. 1 concertos have features both avant-garde for their time, such as the violin solo that opens Op. 1 No. 7, thereby anticipating Beethoven. The booklet notes also guide us towards the “remarkable” Adagio of Montenari's No. 6, in which a powerful unison opening is answered by a pleading, recitative-like violin solo." This forward-looking writing leaves us wrong-footed by Op. 1 No. 2, which refers to the earlier style of Torelli, leading Richard Maunder to wonder if the young Montanari had passed through Bologna on his way to Rome, picking up the 1690s 'bug' on the way.

This is a highly enjoyable recording of some very fine concertos, and the playing is up to Simon Standage and Collegium Musicum 90's usual high standards. The sound is intimate and chamber-music orientated rather than concert-hall in perspective, though there is plenty of air around the instruments. I remember Simon Standage from my time as a student at the Royal Academy of Music in the 1980s and by then he was already a highly respected part of the early music establishment. Now in his 70s his playing shows little or no sign of fragility, and we can all but hope to have as much musical juice in our veins as he does at this stage in his long and distinguished career.

Dominy Clements
Previous review: Dave Billinge



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