The Consort

For a composer who died only twenty years or so before Mozart, the style of Charles Avison (1709-1770) is unashamedly high baroque. His meeting with Geminiani in London in the 1720s, and the friendship between them that flourished thereafter, established the link with the Italian style in general, and Corelli in particular, which Avison espoused throughout his career. He was far from indiscriminate though – in his Essay on Musical Expression he remarkably described Vivaldi as ‘only a fit amusement for children’, and his reverence for the ‘genuine Air and true Harmony’ of Corelli and Geminiani was undiminished even well into the 1760s, as is recorded in the preface to his op. 9 concertos.

In this context, the restraint and balance found in Avison’s Twelve Concerti Grossi after Geminiani’s Sonatas for Violin and Basso Continuo op. 1 , given its first recording on this new CD, is not unexpected. The first six concertos are of the da chiesa model while the last six are da camera and include dance movements, although these are never explicitly named. An arrangement of Sonata no. 11 in A minor is missing from the workbook in which the rest of the sonatas were found in 2002, so here it is presented in a stylish arrangement by Pavlo Beznosiuk.

Throughout the recording, the Avison Ensemble responds to Avison’s full 7-part texture with warmth and flexibility. Pavlo Beznosiuk’s violin playing is also impressive, with finely judged phrasing, and ornamentation that is both inventive and expressive but never resorts to the ‘tumultuous’ style that Avison himself so disliked. The unexpected Minuet and Variations of the G minor sonata are particularly enjoyable, and also feature some wonderfully articulate cello playing, not directly credited but presumably by Richard Tunnicliffe. The sound quality is superb too, capturing the supportive but never overbearing acoustic of the Jubilee Theatre in Newcastle.

—Robin Bigwood