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Arcangelo CORELLI (1653 - 1713): "Corelli à la mode"

Stefan Temmingh, recorder; Olga Watts, harpsichord

rec: Sept 17 - 21, 2007, Zürich, Kirche Neumünster
Oehms - OC 598 (© 2009) (64'15")

Sonata No 7 in g minor (after Sonata in d minor, op. 5,7), arr by Tartini; Sonata No 8 in e minor (after Sonata in e minor, op. 5,8), arr by anon, Babell; Sonata No 9 in A (after Sonata in A, op. 1,9), arr by anon, Babell, Geminiani; Sonata No 10 in C (after Sonata in F, op. 1,10), arr by Babell, Blavet; Sonata No 11 in E (after Sonata in E, op. 1,11), arr by anon, Dubourg, Veracini; Sonata No 12 in g minor 'La Follia' (after Sonata in d minor, op. 1,12), arr by Veracini

(Sources: anon, Manchester Manuscript, c1750 ; Blavet, 1er Recueil de pièces, 1744; Hawkins, A General History of the Science and Practice of Music, 1776; Veracini, Dissertazioni ... sopra l’opera quinta del Corelli, s.d.)

There are few composers who have had such a huge influence on the course of music history as Arcangelo Corelli. He only wrote three kinds of music: solo sonatas, trio sonatas and concerti grossi. But in all three departments his output became a model for contemporaries and next generations. His only publication of sonatas for violin and bc was his opus 5, printed in 1700, which became very popular and was often reprinted. It was already in 1702 that the first edition with arrangements for the recorder was printed. It is no surprise that the publisher was John Walsh in London: in England the recorder was one of the most popular instruments, especially among amateurs, whereas on the continent it was already losing ground to the transverse flute. It didn't take long before editions were printed with written-out ornaments, probably in particular with the non-professional musician in mind. After all, professional players were supposed to add their own ornaments.

Corelli's sonatas with ornaments as printed in the early 18th century have been recorded before. Performers can make use of the fourth edition of the sonatas in the original scording for violin which was printed with ornaments which were claimed to be written by Corelli himself. Walsh also printed an edition "with proper graces by an eminent master" in 1707. Who that "eminent master" was is unknown. What is special about the recording by Stefan Temmingh and Olga Watts is that they make use of ornaments by several composers written over a period of about 50 years. The differences are considerable, reflecting not only the various approaches to Corelli's sonatas but also the change in taste during those 50 years. Hence the title of this disc: Corelli à la mode. Most composers as mentioned in the tracklist didn't write ornaments for all sonatas or even for all movements of a sonata. The programme notes, as thorough and informative as they are, fail to tell more about that. They also don't mention which ornaments are used in those movement where no name of a composer is given. I assume those ornaments are of Stefan Temmingh's own making.

In his ornaments - assuming they are indeed his - he remains close to Corelli's own style. The same is true for Giuseppe Tartini, whose ornaments are applied in the sarabanda from the Sonata No 7 in g minor. Geminiani goes a bit further by not only adding notes but also syncopations and arpeggiations. His ornamentation has only been preserved in John Hawkins' A General History of the Science and Practice of Music of 1776. Whereas Geminiani, claiming to have been his pupil, was always very respectful towards Corelli, Francesco Maria Veracini was generally considered rather arrogant about his own skills, and therefore it doesn't surprise that he aimed at "improving" Corelli's sonatas. His main contribution was to make them more virtuosic. The English keyboard composer William Babell also remained comparatively close to Corelli, and mainly filled the leaps with scales.

With Dubourg and Blavet we have two composers who went much further in their treatment of Corelli's sonatas. Matthew Dubourg (1703 - 1767) was a child prodigy on the violin and pupil of Geminiani, playing in public at the age of 11. The very first piece he played in public was a sonata by Corelli. He did more than add ornaments: he added four variations of a highly virtuoso character to the last movement (gavotta) of the Sonata No 11 in E. In this recording his ornaments can also be heard in two other movements of the same sonata, allegro and vivace. The French composer Michel Blavet followed more or less the same procedure in the last movement (gavotta) of the Sonata No 10 in C.

Lastly, the anonymous arrangement found in the so-called Manchester Manuscript. This should indeed be called an arrangement as very little remains of Corelli's original. In the programme notes Karsten Erik Ose makes the comparison to the habits of some opera singers in the first half of the 18th century which sometimes provoked the anger of composers. He also suggests that it is this kind of excesses which made Bach write down his ornaments.

This disc is a very interesting illustration of the changes in musical taste in the 18th century. Whatever one may think about the eccentricities of some 'arrangers', even their treatment of Corelli's sonatas is a testimony of the composer's standing in the 18th century and his lasting influence on music history.

Stefan Temmingh, of South-African origin and now living in Germany, is giving outstanding performances throughout. He captures the various styles of ornamentation very well, and his technical skills are impressive, as the virtuosic movements demonstrate. The last piece, the variations on La Follia, is a good example of his virtuosity. But in the slow movements he shows his sensitivity and expressive capabilities. Olga Watts is his congenial partner at the harpsichord.

All historical considerations apart, this is a most enjoyable and highly entertaining disc which I recommend to every lover of baroque music, whether they like the recorder or not.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

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Stefan Temmingh
Olga Watts

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