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Arcangelo CORELLI (1653 - 1713): "Solos and Concertos Fitted for the Flutes"

Estro Cromatico

rec: March 12 - 14 & Nov 11, 2016, Crema, Studio Giardino
Arcana - A 112 ( 2019) (57'38")
Liner-notes: E/F/I
Cover & track-list

Concerto grosso in F, op. 6,4a [3]; Concerto grosso in g minor 'fatto per la Notte di Natale', op. 6,8ab [3]; Concerto grosso in F, op. 6,9a [3]; Sonata in F, op. 5,4 [2]; Sonata in G, op. 5,7 [1]

Sources: [1] Arcangelo Corelli, Six Solos for a Flute and a Bass Being the Second Part ofhis Fifth Opera ... the Whole Exactly Transpos'd and Made Fitt for a Flute and a Bass, 1702; [2] Arcangelo Corelli & Johann Christoph Pez, A Second Collection of Sonatas for Two Flutes and a Bass by Signr. Christophor Pez, to Which is Added Some Excellent Solo's Out of the First Part of Corelli's Fifth Opera, 1707; [3] John Walsh, ed., Corelli's; XII Concertos Transpos'd for Flutes, viz. a Fifth, a Sixth, a Consort, and Voice Flute, 1725

Marco Scorticati, Sara Campobassoa, recorder; Michela Gardini, cello; Evangelina Mascardi, theorbo; Davide Pozzi, harpsichord, organ; Pietro Pasquini, organb

In the late 17th century and the first half of the 18th century the recorder was by far the most popular instrument among amateurs in England. There was a large market for recorder music, and this explains the many editions of music for the instrument produced by the likes of John Walsh and his Amsterdam colleague Roger, who had his agents in London. They not only printed music by English composers, but also by Italian and French masters. A part of the music was originally conceived for recorder, but Walsh in particular often published music for other instruments, adapted for recorder. Such music is the subject of the present disc, which includes music by Arcangelo Corelli.

He was extremely popular in England from around 1700, when his sonatas for violin and basso continuo Op. 5 began to circulate. They were enthusiastically received, especially by the members of the many amateur musical societies in the cities and larger towns across the country. It is not exaggerated to say that England was seized by a true Corellimania. In 1710 the music historian Roger North wrote that "it [is] wonderfull to observe what a scratching of Corelli there is every where - nothing will relish but Corelli". He also stated that "if music can be immortal, Corelli's consorts will be so".

No wonder, then, that a clever businessman like John Walsh exploited the popularity of Corelli's music by publishing his own edition of the Op. 5 sonatas. It was followed by a set of six sonatas from this set in arrangements by an unknown hand for recorder. These concerned the second half of the set: five sonatas after the model of the sonata da camera and the variations on La Follia. This part of Corelli's collection was considered more accessible than the first six. In 1707 Walsh published two sonatas from that part of Op. 5, the Nos. 3 and 4. Whereas in the first edition the sonatas were transposed to a different key in order to make them playable at the recorder, the two sonatas from the first half were published in their original keys. However, according to the title page they were "artfully transpos'd and fitted to a flute and a bass". This refers to the adaptation of certain passages, which were unplayable on the recorder, and therefore transposed. In the present recording, the Sonata No. 4 is played, and those who know Corelli's sonatas well, will regularly notice differences between the original and this adaptation.

The recorder versions of Corelli's sonatas are quite popular among recorder players, and they often turn to the versions with additional ornaments which are part of an edition of Roger of 1710, reprinted the next year by Walsh, and which were claimed to be from Corelli's own pen. However, there was considerable doubt about their authenticity. The above-mentioned Roger North wrote: "Upon the bare view of the print anyone would wonder how so muc vermin could creep into the works of such a master." Estro Cromatico has chosen the version from the 1707 edition, which is not without exuberant ornamentation either. "The ornamentation from the 1707 recorder arrangements has less direction than Corelli's own, but still includes plenty of his irregular roulades, showing familiarity with a similar Italian practice", David Lasocki writes in his liner-notes.

The three concerti grossi included here constitute the more unconventional part of this recording. I can't remember having ever heard them being played on recorders. I did not even know that these versions existed. They are taken from an edition by Walsh of 1725. He had also been the first to publish the original versions in London in 1715. This publication caused a huge excitement among English music lovers. The music historian John Hawkins mentions that immediately after the publication the whole set was played during a private concert in the house of John Loeillet. In 1719 Jeanne Roger published the concertos in arrangements for two recorders and basso continuo by Johann Christian Schickhardt. Not only did he omit the viola parts, but he treated the whole set with considerable freedom, in that he left out entire movements, and also mixed movements from different concertos. Walsh's edition of 1725 is much closer to Corelli's original concertos. The viola part is again omitted, but otherwise the material is kept intact. As in the case of the recorder sonatas 3 and 4 from the Op. 5, the concertos were published in the original keys. Inevitably this made it necessary to transpose some episodes which were not playable on the recorder. The listener will sometimes wonder whether this is still really Corelli; in some movements quite a lot has changed. The logic, which is such a feature of Corelli's concertos, is sometimes far away.

In order to fully appreciate these versions, one should try to listen to these concertos as if they were originally conceived for the recorder and to forget where they come from. Musically, Corelli's originals are superior, but in these versions they have a charm of their own. It is very interesting to listen to these versions which are such impressive tokens of the Corellimania in England as well as the huge popularity of the recorder.

The members of Estro Cromatico have done us a favour by bringing these versions to our attention. Recorder aficionados will certainly love these performances, especially as they are so excellently executed as is the case here. The players don't make any attempt to show off; their performances are in fact rather restrained, but in music which is already exuberant as it is, that is just as well.

This is a very fine disc which is well up to repeated listening.

Johan van Veen ( 2019)

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