Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Geminiani - La Folia - The Purcell Quartet






Geminiani - La Folia - The Purcell Quartet
Baroque | Eac, flac, cue | log, cover | 1 CD, 270 MB
August 14, 2007 | Hyperion UK | RapidShare


Over the course of three centuries, more than 150 composers have used the theme of "La Folia" in their works. The first publications of this theme date from the middle of the 17th century, but it is probably much older. Plays of the renaissance theatre in Portugal, including works by Gil Vicente, mention the folia as a dance performed by shepherds or peasants. The Portuguese origin is recorded in the 1577 treatise De musica libri septem by Francisco de Salinas. Examples of early folias include works by Juan del Encina in 1520, Diego Ortiz in 1553, and Antonio de Cabezón in 1557. Jean-Baptiste Lully, in collaboration with Philidor in 1672, Arcangelo Corelli in 1700, Alessandro Scarlatti in 1710, Antonio Vivaldi in his Opus 1 No 12 of 1705 and Johann Sebastian Bach in his Peasants' Cantata of 1742 are considered to highlight this 'later' folia repeating theme in a brilliant way. In the 19th century the theme's popularity decreased, but it regained composers' interest during the 1930s with Sergei Rachmaninov in his Variations on a theme by Corelli in 1931 and Manuel María Ponce and his Variations on "Spanish Folia" and Fugue for guitar.

CD review
This is a reissue – and a welcome one – on Hyperion’s Helios label; it’s a collection of string pieces by the late Baroque composer Francesco Geminiani. First released twenty years ago, it makes a valid and representative introduction to some of the strengths of Geminiani. At the same time the selection highlights the skills and interpretative powers of performers, many of whom were just beginning to make names for themselves in the 1980s and are now firmly established as specialists in their fields. Indeed the Purcell Quartet was in the middle of a wider series of chamber music based on La Folia.

Geminiani’s Concerto Grosso is actually the only work on this disc so based. It’s beautifully played here, though. There is energy, a sailing and uplifting movement in what’s already a lively and extrovert theme. The other Concerto Grosso, the G Minor Opus 7 number 2, is tackled just as stylishly and should convince anyone sceptical of Geminiani’s place in the canon that his blend of thematic thrift and apposite instrumentation admirably vindicates his champions’ faith in the composer’s inventiveness and technical adeptness.

There are three Trio Sonatas here. Number 3 in F Major seems at time to be holding back and has the most delightful, subtle melodies. Number 5 in A Minor has just as much sophistication, variety and emerges through gentle curves and swayings of sound; the opening movement has some exciting yet controlled counterpoint. And number 6 in D Minor has an almost Handelian middle movement and much uplifting yet not unserious ripieno and thrusting passages which reveal the beauty of these dedicated players’ string sound.

The thing you’ll probably notice as you settle into the first few tracks is the sedate pace - a marked slowness of tempi. This is all to the good - for the unrushed unfolding of thematic ideas and supporting instrumentation allow the music to breathe, and every nuance to be fully audible. Indeed there is a dignity and gravitas to, for example, the F Major’s gentle statement and counter-statement; they make it sound more classical than spontaneous. Yet the execution here is far from predictable or dull. Similarly the gentle, walking pace with which each of the players sets out the theme of La Folia itself has the effect, almost, of a first time hearing. Most welcome.

Elizabeth Wallfisch hits some high spots and sends shivers down the spine with her performance of the Opus 1 number 3 solo sonata in E Minor; Catherine Mackintosh similarly does opus 4 number 12 proud – though with perhaps not quite the same self-confidence as Wallfisch.

So there’s a pleasing array of textures, musical ideas and harmonic depth on this CD. It bears repeating that this is music originally meant for amateur, ‘local’ performance (and consumption). Its flavour has been suavely picked up and handled very well by these consummate professionals. The lasting impression remains of unspectacular detachment; the music is played with a generous seriousness that nevertheless never cloys nor draws attention to itself. It’s stately and almost regal at times. Maybe that’s chiefly because tempi are a tiny bit slower than we have become used to in intervening years. But really none the worse for that – we can savour every turn and phrase.

The fact that these dozen accomplished musicians haven’t thereby rendered the music in any way ‘precious’ must originate in their evident exuberance, and enjoyment of knowing and presenting it. There’s a genuineness and gentle familiarity in their playing that makes them superb ambassadors for what Geminiani was aiming at – and what he usually so successfully achieved: persuasive, thoughtful and accessible music of great originality and subtle beauty.


The Purcell Quartet

Geminiani (who studied with Corelli in Rome) seems to have been a bit… ‘needy’ where conducting and organizing his own music was concerned; Burney put his failings down to a shaky sense of tempi! He was more adept at re-arranging (his) music when necessary – indeed it is the 1739 revision of his Opus 1 from 1716 that we hear on this CD. The musicians here play with never a hint of such shortcomings thereby lifting the music into a more refined, almost rarefied, sphere. But, again, this steadiness is a big plus where music of such delicacy is concerned.

The liner notes are somewhat on the sparse side; the sound is more than adequate if a little closely recorded, and the quantity not all that generous at little more than 50 minutes. All in all this is a disc that can be thoroughly recommended. Listening to it carefully and with renewed attention (there’s always something new at each hearing… a delayed harpsichord entry, an apposite rallentando, a striking counterplay of closing chords) will bring hours of pleasure.--Mark Sealey


Tracks:
01 - Purcell Quartet - Geminiani: Trio Sonata #3 in F, Op. 1/9 - 1. Largo (03:16)
02 - Purcell Quartet - Geminiani: Trio Sonata #3 in F, Op. 1/9 - 2. Andante (02:12)
03 - Purcell Quartet - Geminiani: Trio Sonata #3 in F, Op. 1/9 - 3. Allegro (03:23)
04 - Purcell Quartet - Geminiani: Concerto Grosso "La Folia" (10:53)
05 - Purcell Quartet - Geminiani: Sonata in E minor, Op. 1/3 - 1. Adagio - Allegro - Adagio (01:36)
06 - Purcell Quartet - Geminiani: Sonata in E minor, Op. 1/3 - 2. Tempo giusto - Adagio (01:32)
07 - Purcell Quartet - Geminiani: Sonata in E minor, Op. 1/3 - 3. Allegro (02:44)
08 - Purcell Quartet - Geminiani: Trio Sonata #5 in A minor, Op. 1/11 - 1. Spiritoso (01:40)
09 - Purcell Quartet - Geminiani: Trio Sonata #5 in A minor, Op. 1/11 - 2. Andante (02:05)
10 - Purcell Quartet - Geminiani: Trio Sonata #5 in A minor, Op. 1/11 - 3. Allegro (02:27)
11 - Purcell Quartet - Geminiani: Trio Sonata #6 in D minor, Op. 1/12 - 1. Andante (02:02)
12 - Purcell Quartet - Geminiani: Trio Sonata #6 in D minor, Op. 1/12 - 2. Allegro (02:09)
13 - Purcell Quartet - Geminiani: Trio Sonata #6 in D minor, Op. 1/12 - 3. Allegro (02:05)
14 - Purcell Quartet - Geminiani: Sonata in A major, Op. 4/12 - 1. Adagio - Presto (01:53)
15 - Purcell Quartet - Geminiani: Sonata in A major, Op. 4/12 - 2. Presto (01:38)
16 - Purcell Quartet - Geminiani: Sonata in A major, Op. 4/12 - 3. Presto (01:20)
17 - Purcell Quartet - Geminiani: Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 7/2 - 1. Grave - Allegro (04:16)
18 - Purcell Quartet - Geminiani: Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 7/2 - 2. Andante (01:24)
19 - Purcell Quartet - Geminiani: Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 7/2 - 3. Allegro (03:04)


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