Tafelmusik - Jeanne Lamon
Recorded at Notre Dame covent, Waterdown, Ontario, Canada April 29 - May 1, 1990
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Geminiani: Concerti Grossi
Only a year after the first publication of Arcangelo Corelli's Op. 6, the London publisher John Walsh brought out a reprint of these concerti grossi, which soon became frequently played. In 1726 he printed Francesco Geminiani's arrangements as concerti grossi of the Op. 5 violin sonatas by Corelli, Geminiani's teacher. And in 1732 there apperared, among his publications, Geminiani's Op. 2 concerti grossi, which along with Handel's and Corelli's compositions and the concertos of Pietro Locatelli and Pietro Castrucci were among the best-selling works of this kind in England at that time. Probably by 1735 the finale of the C minor concerto, Op. 2 No. 1, appeared as a special printing with a text subtitled ("Know Madam I never was born") under the description of "Favorite Minuet". Geminiani himself published in 1755 a "second edition" of his Op. 2 and Op. 3 concerti grossi, now with embellishments - an illuminating document for the ornamentation practice of the time. And even at the end of the century the composer and publisher Johann Baptist Cramer anticipated a commercial success when he brought out Geminiani's Op. 2 and Op, 3 "adapted for the Harpsichord, Organ or Pianoforte".
For the violinist Francesco Geminiani, born about 1680 in Lucca, 1714 was the year of destiny. Trained by Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti in Rome and Naples, he had indeed for a time been concertmaster in the orchestra of the Teatro Reale in Naples; but according to a report by Charles Burney, his musical colleagues there were not seldom thrown into confusion by his excessive tempo rubato. Better prospects for the future opened to the obviously ambitious young musician when in 1714, together with the oboist and flautist Barsanti (likewise from Lucca), he turned up in London and there found influential patrons in the Count of Essex and Baron von Kielmannsegge. Already in 1715 he was playing at a court con-cert in the presence of King George I, accompanied at the harpsichord by Handel. Ernst Ludwig Gerber in his Historisch - Biographisches Lexikon der Tonkunstler (1791/92) was still calling him one of the great violinists of his time.
In the years 1749-1755 Geminiani lived in Paris to prepare the printing of his works, not least the French translation of his violin method The An of Playing on the Violin. After two concert tours in Ireland in the 1730s, he spent the last years of his life with his former pupil Matthew Dubourg in Dublin. His principal place of work, though, was London, where in December 1731 he had already presented a series of subscription concerts and in 1745 conducted the operatic pasticcio L'Incosumza delusa in the Haymarket Theatre and published his violin method - a work that, again, is indispensable for a knowledge of ornamentation practice. But besides the composer and pedagogue, the highly esteemed violin virtuoso should not be forgotten. "The spirit was delighted, the ear gratified, the fair hearers near to swooning, their souls overwhelmed; and none knew how the bring help to the wounds inflicted in Ovid's manner", ran a contemporary account from the year 1740.
In Geminiani's Op. 2 concerti grossi the dominance of the first violin points to the trend towards the solo concerto. Nevertheless the characteristic style of the concerto grosso is clearly revealed. It is not one or several solo instalments that are accompanied by the orchestra, but rather a smaller group, the so-called concertino, contrasted with the concerto grosso or tutti (also called ripieno), that "enraptures the audience in singular amazement" (Georg Muffat). While concertino and tutti often alternate, in other cases (as in the finale of the second concerto, at the beginning of its second part) the tutti adds merely chordal punctuation.
Except for Concertos Nos. 3 and 6 which have only three movements, Geminiani in his Op. 2, dedicated to the Duchess of Marl-borough, keeps to the four-movement form of the sonata da chiesa (slow-fast-slow-fast). The mostly very short second slow movements serve, to some extent, as no more than connecting passages. Differently compact are the first movements, as in the fifth concerto with its dissonantly overlapping voices. The playground for brilliantly managed contrapuntal skills is the fast second movement, not least in the fourth and fifth concertos. With regard to such movements, the last concerto of the cycle in particular has a decidedly modern appearance. Right at the beginning of this A major concerto, an expressive minuet appears instead of the usual rather solemn first movement.
Pupils of Arcangelo Corelli had, in decisive measure, contributed to the reception outside Italy of their teacher's music. In the Netherlands there was Pietro Locatelli, in Paris Michele Mascitti, in Germany Johann Georg Christian Storl and in England Francesco Geminiani. His concerto grosso arrangements of Corelli's twelve Op. 6 violin sonatas and six of the" Op. 3 trio sonatas appeared in Walsh's publications in 1726 and 1727. Their instrumentation was exactly specified in the title of the edition: Concerti grossi con due violini, viola e violoncello di Concertino obbligati, e due altri violini e basso di Concerto grosso.
Arcangelo Corelli's Op. 5 violin sonatas, published in 1700 in Rome, are of central importance in the Roman master's slender output. The first sonate da chiesa (Nos. 1-6), departing from the normal four-movement form, are in five movements. In his concerto grosso arrangements, however, Geminiani had eliminated the interpolated movement and thereby produced the traditional four-movement form. The finales of the two concertos recorded here are movements of dance-like character: Corelli himself headed the last movement of the G minor sonata (Op. 5 No. 5) "Gigue". Corelli seems, incidentally, to have had a special esteem for that G minor sonata: on several portraits that have been preserved he is represented with a sheet of music in his hand on which the initial bars of the Op. 5 No. 5 sonata are recognisable.
-Hans Christoph Worbs (translation: Lionel Sober, 1992)