Charles Avison Concerti Grossi Opuses 9 & 10

6216 1
0 of 5 stars

Avison
12 Concerti grossi, Op.9
6 Concerti grossi, Op.10

Avison Ensemble
Pavlo Beznosiuk (violin)

Recorded 8-11 October 2006 in The Jubilee Theatre, St Nicholas’ Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne


Reviewed by: Antony Hodgson

Reviewed: August 2008
CD No: DIVINE ART
dda 21211 (2 CDs)
Duration: 2 hours 12 minutes

In terms of performance, the Avison Ensemble is superbly unified. Not surprisingly, several other of its recordings are mentioned in Divine Art’s very well presented annotation. Pavlo Beznosiuk leads with confidence – he is not afraid to add occasional decorations but these are not intrusive and never interrupt the melodic line. In all, these are exceptionally stylish ‘period’ performances by musicians in-tune with Avison’s philosophy and are ideal ambassadors for the promotion of this neglected composer. Divine Art must be commended for promoting rarely heard 18th-century composers, an admirable activity but it can involve commercial risk.

The nature of the recording influences the impression given by the music itself. The acoustic of the venue is very suitable, the string quality has attractive warmth and there is no undue highlighting of the leader. The eleven players sound full-bodied but after a while I became concerned about the narrow dynamic range, which seems to stay entirely between mezzo piano and mezzo forte; add to this the harpsichord being buried deeply within the texture and an element of sameness begins to develop. Harpsichord continuo should enrich bass harmonies but because the tone of this instrument is lacking in treble, apart from a very occasional improvisatory link, the ear picks up no more than a slight colouring of the main notes of the bass line.

I realise that nowadays engineers tend to play down the presence of the harpsichord (I look back nostalgically to the sparkling quality achieved by the Nonesuch engineers in the 1960s) and perhaps I am being ungrateful in view of the comfortable and beautiful recorded quality provided here, but I fear that in the context of Avison’s attractive but perhaps modest talent, it puts the works in danger of seeming too similar to one another.

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