Top 10 Corelli recordings

Gramophone Tue 13th February 2018

Arcangelo Corelli's music continues to inspire musicians and listeners more than 300 years after his death. Here are some of the finest recordings...

The Complete Concerti Grossi

Amandine Beyer vn Gli Incogniti

ZigZag

'Gli Incogniti and Amandine Beyer have made significant ripples on the Baroque orchestral scene with their flamboyant and refreshing style, and now turn their attention to Corelli’s concerti grossi. Perfected over a number of years and prepared for publication by Corelli shortly prior to his death, Op 6 was eventually printed under the supervision of his partner and heir Matteo Fornari in 1714. This recording titled ‘The Complete Concerti grossi’ also presents two other works: a posthumously published sonata in four parts in G minor that lends itself to either chamber or orchestral forces, and the sinfonia Corelli provided for Lulier’s 1689 oratorio Santa Beatrice d’Este, some of which Corelli adapted into Op 6 No 6.'

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Concerti grossi, Op 6 

The English Concert / Trevor Pinnock

DG Archiv

'Fifteen years after it was recorded, the glossy, corporate sheen of Pinnock’s interpretation remains undimmed, securing its place as one of the lasting icons of the British early-music revival, if not the wider movement.'

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Violin Sonatas, Op 5

Andrew Manze vn Richard Egarr hpd

Harmonia Mundi

'Considering the acknowledged status of Corelli’s Op 5 violin sonatas, it is surprising how few of today’s star Baroque violinists have recorded them. Published as a clear statement of intent on January 1, 1700, they are a benchmark not only in the history of the violin but of chamber music in general; yet despite being an accepted model of compositional purity and refinement which lasted throughout the 18th century and beyond, for many music-lovers – even Baroque music-lovers – they are still relatively little-known territory. Perhaps it is their finely honed perfection which has counted against them. Maybe they just seem too polite. Accounts of Corelli’s violin-playing tell us that his eyes would glow ‘red as fire’ and his face contort, but evidence of this volatile character has not not always been easy to detect in the written notes of the violin sonatas.'

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Six Sonatas, Op 5

Michala Petri rec Mahan Esfahani hpd

OUR Recordings

'It’s rare to experience the level of artistic rapport heard on this recording from the Danish recorder player Michala Petri and Iranian-born harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani. Corelli’s Op 5 provides the framework for a remarkable demonstration of not only the rich, idiomatic possibilities for transcription from violin to recorder but, significantly, the extraordinary levels of dialogue (trs 1 and 15) and genuine inspiration of the moment it inspires.'

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The Italian Job

Gail Hennessy, Rachel Chaplin ob Peter Whelan bsn La Serenissima / Adrian Chandler

Avie

'My heart skipped a beat when this new offering from La Serenissima and Adrian Chandler landed on my desk, such was my enjoyment of their Gramophone Awards-shortlisted Vivaldi Four Seasons recording (10/15). So to discover that with this all-Italian assortment of sinfonias and concertos they’ve actually topped their 2016 triumph – and apparently effortlessly – gives me no small amount of pleasure.'

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Trio Sonatas

Purcell Quartet with Jakob Lindberg and Robert Woolley

Chandos Chaconne

'The Purcell Quartet's much acclaimed Corelli trio sonata recording project is taking on some of the elements of a saga. Having delighted us with the freshness and warmth of their first CD (9/87), they dared to take liberties, experimenting interestingly with timbre, tempo, articulation and ornamentation in the second (6/91). In this, the third in the series, they take another tack, necessitated this time by a change of circumstance. This CD serves in particular to announce a change of personnel in the Purcell Quartet. In the time between recording the trio sonatas of Opp. 3 and 4, the much-admired violinist Elizabeth Wallfisch was succeeded by the very able Catherine Weiss. The lively rapport between Wallfisch and the first violinist, Catherine Mackintosh, supremely evident in such Op. 3 movements as the D major and G major Graves, has always been one of the great strengths of the Purcell Quartet.'

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Concerti grossi, Op 6 

Avison Ensemble / Pavlo Beznosiuk vn 

Linn

'Corelli’s reputation as one of the presiding geniuses of the early Baroque is extraordinary for being based on such a small output of work, all of it written for instruments, consisting of just six opus numbers, each of which contains 12 works. Few works of the period can match Corelli’s Op 6 Concerti grossi in popularity, something of which the composer was clearly aware: beginning in his twenties, Corelli obsessively worked and reworked them throughout his lifetime, refusing to allow them to be published. It was only one year after his death that they were finally brought out in Amsterdam; subsequently they went through more than 10 editions in some 20 years, not to mention innumerable adaptions and rearrangements in the course of the 18th century. Often styled as the foundation stone of the concerto grosso medium, the pieces of Op 6 are structured around the opposition of solo concertino and larger ripieno groups of instruments, an arrangement that was already established in Rome by the time Corelli arrived there.'

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Concerti grossi, Op 6

The Brandenburg Consort / Roy Goodman

Hyperion

'With at least a dozen complete recordings of Corelli's one and only set of Concerti grossi already in The Classical Catalogue this newcomer from the Brandenburg Consort faces stiff competition. There are, however, many differing shades of interpretative opinion reflected among the various versions. One of Corelli's contemporaries, Georg Muffat, noted in the preface to a collection of his own concerti grossi, the Ausserlesene Instrumental-Music (1701), that he had heard some time earlier several of Corelli's concertos performed by a great number of instrumental players. On the other hand, we know that these pieces were often played by much smaller groups than that implied by Muffat. Roy Goodman, the director of the Brandenburg Consort steers a middle course with a string disposition of 5.5.4.2.1. In addition, the continuo fields a harpsichord, organ and archlute.'

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Sonatas

Stravaganza

Aparté

'As to the Corelli sonatas, I was continually made aware what wonderful music I was listening to. One is sometimes conscious that Corelli’s style is rather circumscribed. But within the limits he sets himself, and in Stravaganza’s performances, what a wealth of artistry, beauty and variety. They bring intense expressiveness to the slower movements, the violins not stinting in adding elaborate, stylish decoration. In one or two instances, perhaps, these lyrical movements are taken too slowly – the triple-time Largo of Op 3 No 5 should sound more graceful and airy – but even here the playing remains remarkably persuasive. Corelli’s allegros are given a feeling of joyful vitality, the violinists using a stimulating variety of bow strokes. And the sequence of sonatas is beautifully managed, with appropriate changes in the continuo line-up – the A major Sonata, Op 4 No 3, is performed, most effectively, with just two violins and cello, while the presence of organ and theorbo lends gravity to the three sonate da chiesa.'

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Trio Sonatas

Simon Standage, Michaela Comberti vns Nigel North archlute/theorbo Anthony Pleeth vc Trevor Pinnock hpd/organ

DG Archiv

'It is odd that the trio sonatas of Corelli should have been overlooked for so long by the early-music revival, for they were the stimulus for so much of the late-baroque trio sonata repertory. However, to judge by this recording, it was well worth the wait, for in its well-blended artistry and variety of ensemble texture this first recording on period instruments sets a worthy standard.'

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