Monday, October 11, 2010

Charles Avison - Violin Concertos opus 3 and 4 - The Avison Ensemble







Affection, respect and, thankfully, no eccentricities for a Baroque Englishman.

Opinions differ as to whether the Newcastle composer Charles Avison really was (as the booklet ­notes for this disc quote from New Grove) "the most important English concerto composer of the 18th century". What about the claims of John Stanley? Do we count Handel as English? Or for that matter Geminiani, who may well have been Avison's teacher? It doesCharles Avison not really matter, of course. Avison was certainly an important and prolific concerto composer, and it has long been a shame that he is known mainly for his intriguing orchestral arrangements of Scarlatti sonatas, which, though irresistible in their way, are hardly representative of his art as a whole.

That art was a solidly conservative one in the Corellian concerto grosso tradition. The Avison Ensemble have apparently picked his most adventurous works for this offering, but apart from some unusual movement layouts in Op 4, it seems unlikely that the casual listener will feel that there is anything hugely experimental going on. That is not to say that they are without interest or charm, however, and it is evident enough what the qualities are that kept at least one of these concertos in the repertoire until the early years of the 19th century, namely warm tunefulness, smooth orchestral string textures and a forward energy that never threatens decorum. These performances, sweetly recorded in a Newcastle church, present them with affection, respect and a refreshing absence of turbo-Baroque eccentricities designed to grab the attention. Music as settled and self-assured as this can speak perfectly well for itself.--Lindsay Kemp 


flac, scans

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