GEMINIANI: Concerti Grossi, Vol. 2

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Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762)

Concerti Grossi Vol. 2

Op.3, Nos. 5 & 6 ? Op.7, Nos. 1-6

The violinist and composer Francesco Geminiani was one of thoseItalian musicians who found a ready livelihood in England in the first half of theeighteenth century. Born in Lucca, probably in 1687, he was a pupil of Corelli and ofAlessandro Scarlatti in Rome, after earlier violin lessons from his father, whom hesucceeded in Lucca in 1707 in the Capella Palatina, the principal musical establishment ofthe city. He was released from his obligations there in 1710, as a result of the allegedfrequency of his absences, and led the opera orchestra in Naples from the following year.

Here he was referred to as furibondo, reference to a tendency to freedom in rhythm that was not always welcome, a trait perhapsacquired from his teacher Corelli, who had had his own problems in Naples. According toCharles Burney, who cannot always be trusted in these matters, he was demoted to the violasection for his remaining time in Naples. In 1714 Geminiani moved to London, where heenjoyed immediate success as a performer and the patronage of Johann Adolf Baron vonKielmansegg, the Hanoverian courtier who had been instrumental in bringing Handel toHanover and helping to establish him in England. Geminiani dedicated his first set of adozen violin sonatas to von Kielmansegg in 1716 and was indebted to the Master of theKing's Horse for his introduction to the court of King George I, before whom he played,accompanied, at his own insistence, by Handel.

Geminiani won the support of a number of the nobility inEngland and exercised very considerable influence also through his pupils, including theyoung violinist Matthew Dubourg, who spent a considerable part of his life in Dublin,where he led the orchestra at the first performance of Handel's Messiah,Michael Festing, later Master of the King's Musick, and the Newcastle composer CharlesAvison. Charles Burney, whatever his later thoughts on the subject, admits in a letter of1781 that as a young man "Handel, Geminiani and Corelli were the sole Divinities of[his] Youth", although he was later "drawn off from their exclusive worship . .

.by keeping company with travelled and heterodox gentlemen , who were partial to the Musicof more modern composers whom they had heard in Italy". Indebted as he was to his ownteacher Corelli, Geminiani derived his own style of writing largely from him. Evidence ofthis may be seen in his publication in 1726 and 1727 of Corelli's twelve violin sonatas asconcerti grossi. Through the agency of the Earl of Essex it was proposed in 1728 thatGeminiani should become Master and Composer of State Music in Ireland, but from thisposition he was, as a Catholic, excluded and the honour went instead to his pupil Dubourg.

In London Geminiani continued teaching and performing, takingpart in series of subscription concerts and in 1732 publishing two sets of concertigrossi, Opus 2 and Opus 3. He extended his activities, at the same time,to Ireland, where Matthew Dubourg was now established, continuing his connection withDublin as occasion and Dubourg demanded during the following years. Quarrels with theLondon publisher Walsh, who had pirated Geminiani' s compositions as he had Handel's,would have been settled by the granting of the royal privilege of exclusive rights to hiscompositions in 1739 and a similar licence in France the following year. Otherpublications followed in the 1740s, notably his Opus 7 concerti grossi in 1746 and a set of cellosonatas listed as Opus5, in the same year, works later arranged for violin and harpsichord. Hetravelled abroad to the Netherlands and to Paris, presumably attending the performance inthe latter city of a staged version of his musical interpretation, later published inconcerto grosso form, of an episode in Tasso's Gerusalemmeliberata, under the title The Enchanted Forest.

It was in 1748 that Geminiani published his Rules for Playing in a True Taste and the fuller A Treatise of Good Taste in the Art of Musick in thefollowing year. In 1751 he published his very influential The Art of Playing onthe Violin, a vital source of information on contemporary practice. Of lessimportance are his Guidaarmonica and The Art of Accompaniment, with a later supplement tothe former and a final The Art of Playing the Guitar or Cittra appearing inEdinburgh in 1760, published by his former pupil Robert Bremner.

Geminiani finally settled in Dublin, at the invitation ofDubourg, although there were still visits to Scotland and to England. The last concert ofhis of which there is any record was in Dublin in 1760, when he was still able to give amasterly account of himself, through his artistry concealing the physical weakness of age.

He died in Dublin in 1762.

The form of the concerto grosso owes much to Geminiani'steacher, Arcangelo Corelli. Written as early as the 1680s, but published only posthumouslyin 1713, Corelli's twelve concerti epitomize a form that was to appeal to a very widepublic, attracting both professional and amateur performance. If the dominant instrumentalform of the period was the trio sonata, a composition for two melody instruments, with afigured bass line for cello or viola da gamba and keyboard, the concerto grosso was anextension of this. The latter form contrasts a small solo group, usually of two violins,cello and harpsichord, known as the concertino, with the main body of the now generallyfour-part string orchestra and its keyboard instrument. It was easy enough to transformthe sonata into a concerto by allowing the main body of the orchestra, the so-calledripieno players, to reinforce the louder sections, leaving softer passages to theconcertino. The concerto grosso developed soon more individual concertino parts thatdiffered in elaboration from those of the ripieno or concerto grosso. In origin, then, theconcert grosso may be seen as a trio sonata writ large, a trio sonata arranged fororchestra. It should be added that both trio sonata and concerto grosso existed as eithersecular da camera compositions or as sacred da chiesa works, the former akin to a dancesuite in a number of movements and the latter incorporating more solemn fugal elements inthe second and often the fourth of its four movements. The rigid distinction between thetwo forms, clear enough in Corelli, did not continue.

The first set of original concerti grossi by Geminiani, afterthose earlier works based on Corelli, was published in London in 1732, followed by asecond edition in 1755 of both Opus 2 and Opus 3, printed for the author by John Johnson, inCheapside, in score for the first time, as well as in parts, as in 1732, but now correctedand enlarged, some thought to the detriment of the works. For this new edition it seemsthat he borrowed from Dr Burney a transcription that the latter had made many yearsbefore, not having the originals by him. Burney adds that Geminiani failed to return themanuscript.

The present volume includes two concerti from Opus 3. In this collection the ripieno, unusually, iswithout a viola, while a solo viola is included in the concertino, a procedure possiblydictated by purely practical considerations. The fifth of that set, the Concerto grosso in B flat major, Op,3, No.5, is inthe usual four movements. The first of these is an Adagio that makes some use of dottedrhythms before a compound rhythm Allegro. It is followed by an E flat major Adagio,leading to a final triple-metre Allegro.

The Co
Item number 8553020
Barcode 730099402026
Release date 12/01/1999
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Composers Geminiani, Francesco
Geminiani, Francesco
Conductors Krecek, Jaroslav
Krecek, Jaroslav
Orchestras Istropolitana, Capella
Istropolitana, Capella
Disc: 1
Concerto Grosso in B major, Op. 7, No. 6
1 I. Adagio
2 II. Allegro
3 III. Adagio
4 IV. Allegro
5 I. Adagio
6 II. Allegro
7 III. Adagio
8 IV. Allegro
9 I. Andante
10 II. L'arte della fuga, a 4 parte reale
11 III. Andantino - Adagio
12 IV. Allegro Moderato
13 I. Grave
14 II. Allegro Assai
15 III. Andante
16 IV. Allegro
17 I. Presto - Tempo Giusto
18 II. Andante
19 III. Allegro Assai
20 I. Andante
21 II. Allegro - Adagio
22 III. Allegro - Adagio - Allegro
23 I. Andante
24 II. Allegro - Grave
25 III. Allegro
26 I. Allegro Moderato - Andante - Grave
27 II. Presto - Adagio
28 III. Allegro Moderato
29 IV. Andante - Allegro Assai - Adagio
30 V. Presto
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