Photo: Courtesy of the Ensemble
The English Concert
The immense popularity of Arcangelo Corelli’s music in England during the first half of the 18th Century spawned a veritable cult among gentleman amateurs. Such fanaticism and demand was met by Italian composer Francesco Geminiani with an arrangement of Corelli’s opus 5 violin sonatas for orchestra. The resulting concertos are a starting point for the English Concert’s new Harmonia Mundi recording entitled Mr. Corelli in London, which includes further arrangements of Geminiani’s music into recorder concertos.
Led by the dynamic English conductor Laurence Cummings, the orchestra’s approach is not only beautifully realized, but special recognition must go to recorder soloist Maurice Steger, who manages to break all previous speed records for Corelli performance, setting a new type of standard in the process.
Whereas the English Concert chose to make their own arrangements of Geminiani’s concertos, Ensemble 415 recorded them as is on the Zig-Zag Territories label, allowing their natural beauty and invention to come through as the group has always done with the Italian baroque repertoire. The result is a wonderfully adorned performance that allows both Corelli and Geminiani to shine.
If there is a definitive recording of the Corelli/Geminiani concertos, it is Ensemble 415’s, without a doubt. The performance captures the listener with its poeticism, wisdom, and sheer jubilation. Under the direction of Chiara Banchini, whose violin playing is a true marvel, the recording is one of the high points in the ensemble’s discography and one worth adding to your collection.