Corelli: Trio Sonatas
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.
Trevor Pinnock and members of The English Consort have chosen six sonate da chiesa (Op. 1) and four sonate da camera (Op. 2) from the 48 that Corelli published. Like Edward Melkus, on his now deleted Archiv Produktion LP recording of Corelli's Op. 5 solo sonatas, Simon Standage and Micaela Comberti play with a variety of continuo combinations appropriate to Rome of the 1680s. The church sonatas are very effectively accompanied by organ and cello or archlute, the chamber sonatas by harpsichord and cello; no violone is used.
The recorded sound on this CD-only release is intoxicating—especially in the church sonatas where the organ sustains while the second continuo instrument takes the moving bass as in Op. 1 Nos. 1, 7, 9 and 11. The violin tone is warm and resonant, though the upper part is occasionally more forward than the second (Op. 1 No. 3 Grave); even the cello (Op. 2 No. 6) and lute (Op. 1 No. 7 Grave) parts—both firmly and sensitively played by Anthony Pleeth and Nigel North—occasionally stand out (one suspects these moments of slight imbalance, among so many perfectly judged, are the fault of engineers, not of players).
The group play with wonderful precision, the fruit of many years' collaboration. The Largo e puntato of Op. 1 No. 12 is particularly well articulated. Points of imitation sparkle in the fugal allegros, suspensions ravish in the slow movements, lively gigas provide exuberant finales. Standage and Comberti insert some playful glissandos in the giga of Op. 2 No. 6; trills abound though there might have been more of the artful filling in found in the Preludio of Op. 2 No. 4 and elsewhere. Neither player shrinks from the breathtaking dissonances Corelli sometimes dropped into his harmonic progressions, as in the finale of Op. 1 No. 1, and both are sensitive to the mercurial quality of the music, never more evident than in the Op. 1 No. 9 first and last movements. It is clear from these fine performances that this music is beautiful and compelling as well as historically significant. I hope that they will continue the cycle.'