BBC Music Magazine

Virtually forgotten today, Newcastle-born and -based Charles Avison (1709-70) was in his lifetime admired both as a composer and , as Charles Burney put it, “an elegant writer upon his art”. This disc is part of a Northern Arts-sponsored project devoted to promoting the cause of Tyneside’s most eminent musical son. And very agreeable it is. Avison contrived these concertos so they could also be performed either as string quartets, with or without continuo, or as solo keyboard music. Here the Georgian Concert opts for the quartet version, but rings the changes by varying the continuo and substituting an obbligato organ for violin in no.8. Modelled on Geminiani and Handel rather than Vivaldi, each of the concertos is in four brief movements, with a slow, French-style opening usually followed by a lively fugue that grows less fugal as it proceeds. No. 8 ends with a rustic jig, though most of the other works close with gentle minuets that suggest the emerging style galant. Plenty to charm the ear, even if on this showing Avison doesn’t quite match his contemporaries Arne and Boyce in vigour and melodic allure. Performances are spruce and spirited, with stylishly turned obbligato contributions and a nice feeling for Avison’s dance rhythms.
Performance * * * * Recording * * * *

—Richard Wigmore