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  • Charles Avison - Twelve Concertos Op.6 reviews | Avison Ensemble
    published during his lifetime Like his teacher Geminiani Avison preferred a four part concertino group consisting of two violins viola and cello rather than the more usual trio of two violins and cello favoured by Corelli and Handel While the musical interest in the set as a whole is uneven there are many finely constructed movements whose character of often individual and whose idiom is distinctive Among the most impressive works is the Eight Concerto in E minor which shows off Avison s strengths both as an able contrapuntist and as a melodist There is plenty of formal variety within the 12 concertos which Janus like look both backwards towards Corelli No 9 and forwards towards the Italian three movements sinfonia No 12 The period instrument Avison Ensemble under Pavlo Beznosiuk s experienced direction gives heartfelt performances of these pieces Upper strings are not always entirely unanimous but the playing is full of character and charm A voyage of discovery The Observer these 12 original fresh minted works which bounce with vim and vigour in the hands of this excellent ensemble Anthony Holden January 2004 It takes an Irish Ukrainian violinist conductor of course to lead a period instrument band in the world premiere recording of these 12 short works by the man hailed in the New Grove as the most important English concerto composer of the 18th century Born in Newcastle upon Tyne Charles Avison 1709 70 was a teacher conductor and entrepreneur as well as a prolific composer better known for his 12 concertos based on Scarlatti keyboard sonatas than these 12 original fresh minted works which bounce with vim and vigour in the hands of this excellent ensemble Bridging the Italian concerto grosso style and the sonata form recently developed by Hadyn and J C Bach they do Tyneside proud indeed Yorkshire Post these delightful concertos are full of vivacity in the hands of the Avison Ensemble Fervently recommended David Denton August 2004 More than able to stand comparison with any composer of his time the fast outer movements of these delightful concertos are full of vivacity in the hands of the Avison Ensemble with Pavlo Beznosiuk as solo violin and conductor The transparent sound quality ensures we hear every instrumental strand Fervently recommended The Daily Telegraph Australia spirited crisply articulated and expressive performances Elizabeth Roche July 2004 The arrival of this splendid issue should surely win Avison the host of new friends he certainly deserves The scores are also unusually well supplied with very precise phrasing and dynamic markings of which the Avison Ensemble take full advantage in spirited crisply articulated and expressive performances The Sunday Herald they bring both fluency and flair to these performances Frank Carroll January 2004 On this world premiere recording the excellent Avison Ensemble play on period instruments Directed by Pavlo Beznosiuk they bring both fluency and flair to these performances For those who want to know more of Avison this will be a journey of discovery The Independent these concertos

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  • Charles Avison - Harpsichord Sonatas reviews | Avison Ensemble
    such as this and others have begun to show just how adaptable personable imaginative and clever is his writing His accompanied keyboard sonatas are in three sets Op 5 was published in 1756 followed by op 7 in 1760 and op 8 four years later In this two disc set we hear opp 5 and 7 Avison was an eloquent admirer of his contemporaries and forebears taking pains in his advertisement for the op 8 set to cite Scarlatti Rameau Geminiani and C P E Bach by name His opinion of Handel was not unmixed The genesis for this kind of work was a compound of Corellian procedure and Rameau s 1741 Pièces de Clavecin The cleverness of Avison lies in his accommodation of both forms and in his ability successfully to utilise them to his own devices The sonatas were not intended for public performance but rather for private amusement The keyboard part is complete in and of itself so an amateur could play the part on his own the string writing acting as a supporting fabric to the harpsichord There are no solo flourishes from the strings The op 5 set consists of six multi movement works some four some two and one in three movements All are compact and full of lively music making Maybe there are hints of a Scotch Snap in the opening of the First in G major What s undeniable is the fecundity of invention the warm textures of the Minuet the lightly contoured cello drone in the Allegretto finale and ensuing folkloric inflexions Not only is Avison s writing broad minded and full of thematic interest but the performances by Gary Cooper and his eminent cohorts fully worthy of it the combination is outstanding in every way Avison has a real sense of character and sometimes quirkiness The second movement of the two movement second sonata is the more unpredictable and original and keeps one on one s aural toes throughout It s very cleverly composed very fluid thematically and passing Handelian moments or moments that seem Handelian maybe in retrospect only add to the mélange The Andante of the Third has the lyric qualities of a John Stanley whilst the Siciliana of the Fourth flows as sweetly as a fresh stream The performers all catch the brisk articulation of the following Aria spiritoso as marked In 1760 the op 7 collection was published Apart from the fifth which is in three movements all the others are written in two The presto opening of the second has an almost operatic intensity but also compression There s decorative melancholy in the opening of the third whilst the opening of the fourth is more explicitly expressive in a way that begs the question as to whether Avison wrote oratorios The finale of this sonata is theatrical and fulsome the Ciacone of the sixth sprightly and life enhancing Recording quality first class performances and music come together in a wholly splendid way in this disc

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  • Charles Avison - Trio Sonatas reviews | Avison Ensemble
    towards the keyboard than to the violins and cello The spirit of these pieces is a heady combination of the fire and heat of Scarlatti the grotesque and the bizarre of Rameau and the charm and grace of the pre classical salon I would recommend starting with track 3 of CD no 2 the A minor sonata not C major as printed in the CD booklet before listening to anything else The CDs feature Pavlo Beznosiuk and Caroline Balding on violins Richard Tunnicliffe on cello and Robert Howard on organ op 1 and harpsichord op 8 The strings create a superb well blended sound and offer a wide range of tonal colours and variety but Howarth deserves special credit for his continuo rendition in op 1 and his exceptionally fine harpsichord playing in op 8 There is much to appreciate and learn from his subtle articulation and phrasing while his bold decisive no nonsense approach on the harpsichord is a relief from a world where delicacy and finesse can sometimes overtake flair and good judgement Fanfare Highly recommended Christopher Brodersen Charles Avison 1709 1770 belongs to that unfortunate generation of English composers who lived and worked under the shadow of the great Handel Other of his ilk include William Croft Maurice Green John Stanley William Boyce and Thomas Augustine Arne all of whom worked primarily in the field of church music Handel was lees active here with the exception of Arne who wrote extensively for the theater Avison by comparison is the sole English born musician of the period who can claim to have built his reputation on instrumental music and this he accomplished during his own lifetime Born into a musical family in Newcastle on Tyne Avison spent his entire adult life in that northern seacoast town except for a brief sojourn in London during which he is said to have studied with Geminiani In fact Avison s Trio Sonatas Op 1 were most likely written in London under the guidance of Geminiani Italian music of course was all the rage in England at the time and as a pupil of the great Corelli Geminiani no doubt passed the torch to Avison whose Concerti Grossi Op 6 bears all the hallmarks of the Corelli Geminiani style These were and remain Avison s most popular and recorded works Avison s chamber music also contains elements of the prevailing Italian style whether in the older trio sonata format or the newer harpsichord with the accompaniment of two violins and can be considered his greatest accomplishment Unlike the concerti grossi which are in many cases arrangements of earlier music by Corelli Geminiani and Scarlatti the sonatas are all original compositions and in the case of the harpsichord sonatas incorporate a newer more extroverted less hide bound compositional style that points to concurrent developments in France and Germany variously known as style gallant and empfindsamer Stil The harpsichord sonatas with their constantly scurrying 16 th notes put quite a demand on the keyboard player They sound for all intents and purposes like chamber concertos I find it ironic that Avison write this music for the old fashioned harpsichord rather than the up and coming pianoforte But the music would certainly lose much of its effervescent charm if it were played on the latter The Avison Ensemble was formed several years ago by the cellist Gordon Dixon with the express purpose you guessed it of performing recently discovered works of Avison With all the concerti grossi now released on the Divine Art label the group has turned its attention to the chamber music The small group represented on the present recording contains two names that are likely to be well known on this side of the Atlantic violinist Pavlo Beznosiuk and cellist Richard Tunnicliffe Twenty five years ago of course Beznosiuk was one of the young lions of the period instrument movement in Britain now he s one of its grand old men Compared with other firebrand violinists who seem to get greater press coverage Andrew Manze and Reinhard Goebel among them I find Beznosiuk s playing to be just as imaginative but without the self aggrandizement in other words his playing is always at the service of the music His colleagues are equally fine especially harpsichordist Robert Howarth who breezes through the plethora of notes in the harpsichord sonatas as if they were proverbial pieces of cake The sound of the ensemble especially in the string dominated trio sonatas is surprisingly robust and gutsy you won t hear any whining period violins on these CDs Incidentally the organ is used as a continuo keyboard in every movement of every trio sonata I could have used more variety here Why are early music groups so averse to using the lute therobo The combination of a lute with a chamber organ together with cello or gamba is both historically correct and musically felicitous An exhaustive search through roughly two decade s worth of Fanfare back issue as well as all the Schwann catalogs I could lay my hands on produced exactly one prior recording of Avison s chamber music a single sonata that London Baroque recorded sometime in the 1980s for Amon Ra now withdrawn The present two CD set would appear to be a first for most of these works and it s complete no less Extensive notes on the composer the music the performers and the instruments are provided The recorded sound is just about ideal with a very realistic recorded perspective and as indicated above quite listenable string sound Highly recommended MusicWeb This is a captivating collection of sonatas which is given outstanding and expressive performances Johan van Veen After many years of long neglect the oeuvre of Charles Avison has recently been explored extensively As a result the largest part of his output is now available on disc The Avison Ensemble has played an important part in its rediscovery A look at the website of the ensemble http www avisonensemble com

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  • Charles Avison - Concerti Grossi after Scarlatti reviewsi | Avison Ensemble
    enjoyable and technically first class recording of the Twelve Concerti Grossi has already appeared on this site written by Brian Wilson He went into some detail regarding the origin of the work and also relating the provenance of the movements derived from Scarlatti As he says Divine Art makes all this crystal clear in its booklet notes fine ones by the way as is by now usual I m going to concentrate instead on the many virtues of both music and performance and to recommend once again this fast rising ensemble Beznosiuk has been a leading original instrument practitioner for a good long while now and his experience in the repertory and his direction of The Avison Ensemble is evident at every turn Each Concerto Grosso is cast in four movements of the standard slow fast slow fast kind From the A major which starts the set one is aware of the lithe sonority cultivated by the ensemble of the interplay between the strings and the two violin concertino and of the well balanced weight throughout the orchestra is 6 2 2 1 with the harpsichord played by Roger Hamilton There is also warmth as one can feel in the Amoroso of the same A major work Where definition is required it duly appears as in the etched bass line of the Allegro of No 2 and where Avison asks for spiritoso as he does in the Allegro second movement of the D minor No 3 we find the ensemble more than happy to meet the request The Allegro of No 4 in A minor fizzes by it s taken from the sonata Kk3 and is laced with the kind of wit that Beznosiuk so readily finds in the music The ensuing Largo is stately Avison is good at touches of pomposo whereas the opening Largo of No 5 is quite dramatic Michael Nyman should get his hands on it These kinds of pleasures and virtues abound in this two CD set The wistfully withdrawn Siciliana of No 9 and the affecting Andante moderato of No 11 in G major are equally supple and delightful And note too the daring dynamics cultivated by Beznosiuk and the ensemble in the finale of No 12 or the exciting and biting verve cultivated in the same Concerto Grosso s second movement In short this is another fine exploration of Avison s under explored legacy The ensemble that bears his name does him further honour in this excellently recorded survey The Consort This is exemplary baroque string playing and at its most tasteful Ibrahim Azin Charles Avison 1709 70 was one of the 18th century figures who helped to promote Domenico Scarlatti s keyboard compositions in England He did this through his arrangements of a selection of Scarlatti s works partly gleaned from Thomas Roseingrave s edition of the former s pieces issued in London in 1739 and from an earlier publication of 1738 From these as well as from various other manuscript sources Avison compiled and arranged about fifty movements of Scarlatti and grouped them into twelve concerti grossi for strings and continuo These were published in 1743 and 1744 By this time Avison had become an established musical figure in the northeast of England having built his reputation in the 1730s in London where he was said to have studied under Geminiani It was also in London that he attracted lucrative offers of posts in Dublin Edinburgh and York the latter as organist at York Minster He turned down all of these in order to return to his native Newcastle in 1736 taking up positions at the churches of St John and St Nicholas where he remained until his death in 1770 Avison wrote a great deal of instrumental music much of it published mostly in the traditional Italian style of Corelli and Geminiani but some in forms that were more adventurous for his time there were for example keyboard sonatas with obbligato violins and cello a forerunner of the classical piano trio of Haydn and Mozart and also keyboard quartets employing the same configuration He also composed a steady stream of concerti grossi from the 1740s until shortly before his death during that time Avison wrote a total of about fifty concerti making him one of the most important 18 th century English composers in the genre The Scarlatti arrangements seem to have been a successful venture and Avison s subscription list which included leading musical figures of the day such as Maurice Greene James Nares and Avison s former teacher Geminiani shows that his arrangements were at least well distributed Avison seems to have been a socially committed man he taught organised concerts and orchestras had a great number of influential friends wrote reviews pamphlets and subscribed to music which was how he came across the Scarlatti pieces in the first place In them he clearly saw something new and exciting worth introducing to his audience and also perhaps somewhat unashamedly something that could be developed further To his credit Avison openly justified his treatment of these pieces pointing out as the CD test recounts that by forming them into Parts and taking off the Mask which concealed their natural Beauty and Excellency this will not only more effectually express that pleasing Air and sweet Succession of Harmony so peculiar to the Compositions of this Author but render them more easy and familiar to the Instrument for which they were first intended By this means he encouraged the appreciation of the Scarlatti originals and was able to popularize both the works and his own name at the same time So what do these concertos sound like It was most interesting to listen to them At times it felt as if I already knew the pieces quite well and then the music would suddenly veer into another direction for a moment before returning to the point from which it broke off into more familiar territory At other times it was barely recognisable until I realised it was actually familiar music played at half speed Sometimes the melody and tempo are Scarlatti s but the accompanying harmonies are fresh It was reminiscent of piano lessons of pieces that were learnt wrong and should have been played in another way All this of course has to do with how Avison handled the original templates and adjusted them to suit his judgment and his personal taste Many listeners will be familiar with the original Scarlatti sonatas and they may well react to the music as I did but for those less familiar with Scarlatti this may be a new and revealing experience New because Avison is still probably for many a relatively recent acquaintance and revealing because the musical arrangements are exceptionally well composed As the CD booklet points out composed As the CD booklet points out they were so crafted that unless previously informed one would never have realised that these pieces were not originally conceived as concertos As with any arrangements Avison s give us an insight into how he an actual contemporary of Scarlatti s viewed the latter s works and dealt with the raw materials laid before him Avison s arrangements were widely known given their long subscription list and the fact that they were referred to in various contemporary sources most notably Laurence Sterne s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy but there is no evidence that they reached Scarlatti himself it would have been interesting to know what he thought about them The Avison Ensemble originally formed to champion the composer s works is here represented by a dozen players an ensemble close in size to that which Avison would probably have had in Newcastle in the mid 1700s Pavlo Beznosiuk s exquisite and highly distinctive violin tone is finely balanced by a shimmering and polished string band with precision and elegance being their obvious strengths Pianissimo passages are a delight as is the deftly executed if at times slightly calculated ornamentation and the whole ensemble is sensitively supported throughout by a buoyant but gutsy continuo team This is exemplary baroque string playing and at its most tasteful This recording contains something for everybody the Scarlatti enthusiast the musicologist the teacher and the student as well as string and keyboard players For me it offered a combination of nostalgia and surprises a motivation both to revisit some neglected keyboard music and also to delve into more of the works of this composer whom Charles Burney referred to as an ingenious and polished man an elegant writer upon his art Musicweb 3 This excellent pair of CDs the performances and recording are equally fine Brian Wilson This excellent pair of CDs follows hard on the heels of Divine Art s release of the Avison Ensemble s recording of their eponymous composer s Opp 9 and 10 Concertos DDA 21211 which I so recently recommended see review If anything this is finer music than those concertos hardly surprising when the originals were sonatas by none other than Domenico Scarlatti and the performances and recording are equally fine The London publication in 1739 of 42 Scarlatti sonatas provided Avison s inspiration in arranging movements from several of those as concerti grossi His excuse if one were needed was the difficulty of performance of the music in its keyboard original state but he couldn t help also preening himself on having tak en off the Mask which concealed their natural Beauty and Expression I beg leave not to get into the thorny question of the adequacy or otherwise of the originals performances of the calibre of those of Richard Lester on his complete Nimbus cycle would suggest that there was little amiss but the music certainly sounds more varied and probably more amenable to most modern ears in its orchestral dress More recently Tommasini had the same idea in his arrangement as a ballet for Diaghilev of Scarlatti s music in The Good humoured Ladies Avison didn t orchestrate whole concertos some like No 1 are from just two sonatas Kk91a d and Kk24 others from four different originals like No 2 from KK 91c 13 4 and 2 The Divine Art booklet makes the provenance of each movement clear also indicating with an asterisk movements transposed to a different key with a dagger where the movement has been shortened or altered and with two asterisks where the source is unknown Most of those unknowns mainly slow movements were probably Avison s own compositions sounding in no way out of place in the company of the Scarlatti derived movements Everything original or not is very skilfully arranged preferable to the Sinfonie di Concerto Grosso of the elder Scarlatti Alessandro as least as performed slightly heavily by I Musici on Philips 400 017 2 one of the first batch of CDs in 1983 but no longer available For all my reservations this is worth reissuing but there are alternatives on Tactus TCC661906 and 661907 and CPO 999 8562 Hitherto my benchmark recording has been that of the Academy of St Martin under Neville Marriner Philips Duo 438 806 2 no longer available It was indeed from the ASMF on a long deleted Oiseau Lyre LP that I first came across the music of Avison and his contemporary Boyce and discovered thereby that English music between Purcell and Elgar had not been quite the desert that it had been portrayed as This new recording is ample compensation for the deletion of the ASMF set It doesn t exactly wipe the floor with the earlier version which is still worth considering if you find it as a remainder or second hand at a reasonable price Surprisingly some of the tempi on the new set are slightly broader than on the Philips No 1 iv for example takes 4 43 at Beznosiuk s hands 4 01 at Marriner s On CD2 No 7 iv now takes 4 17 against Marriner s 3 33 I compared the two versions of these movements and found as is often the case that both make perfect sense in their own context Perhaps I lean slightly to Marriner in 7 iv he stresses the allegro part of the marking Beznosiuk the affettuoso part but I don t want to make a big issue of it I shall still want to hear the ASMF versions I couldn t resist listening to the two CDs straight through for comparison but the new versions are likely to make for more frequent listening It s a tribute to the music and to both performances that I could listen to four well filled CDs in one session without becoming sated The ASMF version employs modern instruments though with cognisance of period practice the Avison Ensemble employ period instruments as itemised in the booklet There is a rival period performance from the Brandenburg Consort and Roy Goodman on Hyperion Dyad CDD22060 2 CDs for the price of one I haven t heard this version but it has been described in some quarters as likely to sound a little rough and ready to those not fully attuned to early instruments Mark Sealey certainly didn t in general share that opinion in his review of this set and I find it a little surprising in view of the excellence of their performances of the Handel Op 3 concertos which I have recommended here on Musicweb You certainly won t find anything of the sort about the playing of the Avison Ensemble on the new set this is early music without the rough edges by which I don t mean to imply that it s dull or over polished this isn t the early music equivalent of the Berlin Phil under Karajan I m still hard put to hear the continuo though as I was with the earlier Op 9 10 set I don t want to hear a monster harpsichord clattering away but I d like to hear a little more of it Otherwise the recorded sound is first rate The Avison Ensemble have already recorded the music of their namesake for Naxos and Divine Art Their 2 CD recording of the Concerti Grossi Op 6 on Naxos 8 557553 4 was welcomed by Jonathan Woolf and Johan van Veen as doing Avison proud see JW s review and JV s review Robert Hugill was equally appreciative of their later recording of Opp 3 and 4 8 557905 6 see review I hope to include an appreciation of the Naxos recording of the Op 6 works in my November 2008 Download Roundup this is Avison s finest music with the possible exception of the Scarlatti based concertos Having switched to the Divine Art label the Ensemble recently recorded the newly discovered set of Concertos after Geminiani s Op 1 to the satisfaction of JV again though he had some reservations about the recorded sound DDA21210 see review All these recordings are very worthy of your consideration but the Naxos Op 6 and the new Divine Art sets are probably the best places to start With the new set offered at two for one it s very little dearer than the Naxos so why not get both The only black mark that I can place against this whole enterprise is the failure to provide Avison s dates which is all the more surprising when Divine Art include such a wealth of detail about the provenance of each movement Listen USA The performances are beyond praise The intonation is impeccable the pacing perfect the balance is exemplary Edith Eisler Charles Avison s Twelve Concerti Grossi after Scarlatti are more than mere transcriptions By his own account Avison took great liberties with the originals convinced despite his admiration for them that they could be improved by the removal of certain elements and that forming them into parts would better reveal their natural beauty Thus one cannot discern where Scarlatti leaves off and Avison begins Scarlatti s music is utterly beautiful and Avison s version brings out its qualities to best advantage To create the customary concerto format Avison used four alternately slow and fast sonatas he assembled them so skilfully that each concerto becomes a coherent whole His transcriptions are remarkably idiomatic to the instruments Among this cornucopia of treasures listeners will find their own favorites but no one will be able to resist the lyrical deeply expressive melodies of the slow movements or the lilting rhythms of the dances The performances are beyond praise The players use period instruments listed along with their names and semi period style with very little vibrato but a full warm tone The intonation is impeccable the pacing perfect the balance is exemplary with a strong solid bass The players create variety through articulation and dynamics and are sensitive to every mood change and expressive nuance Beznosiuk is a virtuoso violinist but acts as a first among equals stepping forward and melting back into the ensemble seamlessly when there are two soloists they sound indistinguishable Fanfare USA The performances are lively and expert I would opt for The Avison Ensemble Ron Salemi The New Grove considers Charles Avison the most important English concerto composer of the 18 th century He wrote 60 original concerti grossi not counting the works on this recording which were mostly arranged from keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti Avison s creative life was centered on Newcastle where among other activities he organized concerts similar to those of J C Bach and Carl Friedrich Abel in London during the same period In 1739 Thomas Roseingrave was responsible for introducing Domenico Scarlatti to a wider audience by his publication of an edition of 42 of Scarlatti s keyboard sonatas Avison was impressed by these works but he thought they could be improved by removing what he called capricious Diversions or an unnecessary Repetition in many Places He decided to arrange some of the sonatas in the form of concerti grossi of the chiesa

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