Corelli enjoyed both widespread fame during his lifetime and left a legacy that has endured far beyond. This is in no small part due to the fact that Corelli was at the right place at the right time. He hugely benefited from the music publishing business that boomed right around the time that his opus 5 sonatas came out in 1700: within a hundred years, there were an astonishing 42 editions of those sonatas in print.
As a violinist, Corelli was lauded by his contemporaries as one of the foremost performers in all of Europe. He was also a famous teacher, drawing to his home base in Rome, eager pupils who then in turn disseminated Corelli’s style within their own musical circles.
It is this wide network that the 2015 Acis recording “Corelli’s Influence” takes as its point of departure. At the center is the fifth sonata from Corelli’s aforementioned op. 5 publication, the Ciaccona by one of Corelli’s students, Castrucci, a never before recorded sonata by one of Corelli’s colleagues in Rome, Montanari, as well as a couple recording world premieres of music by Dall’abaco and Albicastro.
Corelli’s sonata opus 5 no. 5 has been performed and recorded extensively. Alexander Woods adds to the mix a nice performance here with his own capable ornamentation and freely interpreted adagios, though it is his take on the closing Giga where Woods’ reading diverts from others.
In his liner note, Woods uses the word “pathos” to describe his interpretation of piece. Indeed, his playing of the closing Giga is a slower tempo than most with a kind of ebb and flow that gives it the feel of an aria more than a dance. I appreciate that the Giga is not played overly fast, but did find myself wishing for a more rhythmically straightforward take on a little movement that in the end is perhaps not so profound.
Albicastro and Montanari
There is no lack of zip, life, and verve elsewhere on this disc and it is in the virtuosic pieces by the other composers where Woods shines. Take for example the sonata by Albicastro, op. 5 no. 4. Unlike the Corelli, this has until now never been recorded and in his performance, Woods holds nothing back.
Another very ear-catching bit of this CD is the beginning of track 2 with the e minor sonata by Montanari. The mysterious opening of an oscillating minor second is simple and wonderful, and I found myself replaying it more than a few times.
Presenting with violinist Alexander Woods in this program of music by composers indebted to Corelli, are harpsichordist Avi Stein and cellist Ezra Seltzer.