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Stefan Temmingh & Olga Watts Corelli a la Mode OC 598 CD
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FormatAudio CD
Ordering NumberOC 598
Release date05/01/2009
Players/ContributorsMusicians Composer
  • Corelli, Arcangelo

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      Description hide

      Sonatas op. 5 No. 7–12 in historical ornamented versions
      Stefan Temmingh, Blockflöte
      Olga Watts, Cembalo

      Corelli’s popular opus 5 violin sonatas were used by some of the 18th century’s most renowned virtuosos as the basis for their own, sometime insanely ornamented variants. It was commonplace for virtuosos to perform these sonatas in their own versions and then publish these versions whenever possible. Such variants, which also document developments from the high to the late baroque era, often wander far from the original text. Stefan Temmingh’s CD brings this forgotten culture of ornamentation back to life, spotlighting some of these works for the first time since the 18th century.

      „Corelli à la mode“
      Sonatas from Arcangelo Corelli’s Opus 5: Dressed in Historical Ornamentation

      This recording of Arcangelo Corelli’s sonatas Opus 5, Nos. 7 – 12 breaks new ground, despite the fact that the compositions presented here are among the most wellknown and important works of European art music. They were first published in 1700 and have been republished countless times since. Numerous recordings have been made.

      The innovative concept behind Stefan Temmingh and Olga Watts’ CD is not the idea of interpreting Corelli’s violin sonatas on the recorder. As early as 1702, the English publisher Walsh released a version of these works “Artfully transpos’d and fitted to a flute and a bass”. The pieces were enthusiastically received by professional recorder players and by the music-making “gentle-man”. Even the concept of performing Corelli’s sonatas clothed in authentic ornamentation is not new. It takes up the thread of both the fourth edition of Opus 5, which published Corelli’s slow movements with “agréemens composez par Mr. A. Corelli, comme il les joue”, and the Walsh edition (1707), which likewise presented the slow movements “with proper graces by an eminent master”.

      Yet this recording does tread new territory. It picks up current musicological discoveries concerning Corelli’s Sonatas Opus 5, offering these works in versions by important 18th-century musicians. Some musicologists may be familiar with these “arrangements”, but they have been almost entirely ignored by performers, languishing in libraries for some 250 years. This situation is as regrettable as it is amazing when one considers the efforts made to achieve authenticity in the context of historically informed performance practice.

      Three explanations can be proposed as to why these versions of Corelli’s sonatas, ornamented by unknown musicians, could have lapsed into oblivion. Firstly, nearly all have come down to us written by hand, making them hard to obtain. Secondly, they make the highest technical demands on the performer and are not exactly easy to play. Last but not least, they often reveal their author’s individual personality to such a great extent and diverge so radically from the original Corelli works that many interpreters find it difficult to identify with them. In a manner of speaking, proponents of this last view are right: musical ornamentation and its execution are such subjective matters that composer and performer ought to be the same person. The performance by one person of a piece by another which has been ornamented by a third is in itself a modern approach.

      The fact that the art of musical ornamentation was subject to changing fashions was widely accepted in earlier times. If one takes a closer look at the many 18th-century publications of Corelli’s Opus 5, one notices that editions containing Corelli’s own ornaments slowly disappeared. Publishers soon began offering only the unornamented version. This is not proof that the 18th-century passion for ornamentation was gradually receding and that the elegance of the simple line became preferred. On the contrary! Corelli’s music remained popular, but his ornaments – with all their subjectivity and personal stylistic mood – lost their relevance. The great violinists who succeeded Corelli regarded his violin sonatas as a considerable challenge. To simply take over the old master’s own “agréments” would have signified inadequacy. Those who wanted to prove themselves as worthy interpreters of the Sonatas Opus 5 had to move with the times, i.e. the current “fashion”, and convince listeners with their own artistry and ornamentation – or better yet: to try and surpass colleagues or predecessors by offering Corelli’s “old wine” in “new bottles”. No lesser commentator than the English music historian Charles Burney described Corelli’s works as so “classic” that a good interpreter could perform them in the “modern” manner with no effort, i.e. ornament them so that they would meet the contemporary tastes of any era.

      This is the point of departure for this recording, which vividly illustrates the aesthetic changes that Corelli’s Sonatas Opus 5 went through during the course of the 18th century. A study of sonata movements that have come down to us from such composers and instrumental virtuosi as Matthew Dubourg, Francesco Maria Veracini, Giuseppe Tartini, William Babell, Michel Blavet or Francesco Geminiani not only reveals something about these latter personalities’ styles but also shows the changes in musical expression and purpose that occurred during the high and late baroque, when music tended towards the “galant” and increasingly demanded more “Empfindsamkeit”.

      This release of the “arrangements” of Corelli’s sonatas gives these compositions an inestimable music-historical significance. In addition, because many movements performed here have been recorded for the first time, this CD has considerable value in terms of the expansion of the repertoire. Lastly, the adaptation of these violin sonatas for recorder also presents welcome additions to the literature. They challenge both the instrument and the performer in all aspects of sound, dynamics, expression and virtuosity to an extent that goes far beyond typical 18th century recorder repertoire. T he title of this CD, “Corelli à la mode”, pays tribute to the fact that the ornamented versions of the movements recorded here follow typical fashions. To understand the stylistic development that took place between the first publication of Corelli’s Opus 5 in 1700 and the late arrangements in the anonymous “Manchester Manuscript” from circa 1750, the names of the Corelli adapters must be chronologically ordered.

      According to the most recent research, Corelli’s sonatas must have been composed long before 1700. Either as four-movement “sonate da chiesa” with alternating slow and fast movements or as “sonate da camera” in the manner of a dance suite, these sonatas were long considered revolutionary and seemed to break with the characteristics of early baroque, ”pasticcio” violin sonatas because they had nearly no previous models.

      However, closer examination of the Italian violin repertoire around 1680 shows that there were definitely pathbreaking composers whose works can be considered links between the old style and Corelli’s sonatas – the violin sonatas by Carlo Ambrogio Lonati (1645 – after 1701), for example. Lonati and Corelli both taught violinist and composer Francesco Saverio Geminiani (1687-1762). The original manuscript of his ornamented versions of Corelli’s compositions has been lost. We only know of its existence due to a note in John Hawkin’s “A General History of the Science and Practice of Music” from 1776, which makes an exact dating of this manuscript difficult.

      Geminiani was the teacher of violin virtuoso Matthew Dubourg (1703 – 1767), who had achieved great renown as concertmaster in Georg Friedrich Handel’s Dublin performances. Dubourg must have arranged Corelli’s works in the years before 1720. Around the same time, harpsichordist William Babell (ca. 1690 – 1723) was active in Handel’s Royal Academy of Music in London’s King’s Theatre at the Haymarket. His ornamented Corelli movements are representative of an earlier ornamental style that is relatively close to the style of Corelli’s age. Other composers who followed in Corelli’s footsteps – even if they did exceed the model of their great mentor – include Francesco Maria Veracini (1690 – 1768), the highly virtuosic violinist who makes a presumptuous attempt in his “Dissertazioni sopra l’opera quinta del Corelli” to “improve” the master’s works, and Giuseppe Tartini (1692 – 1770), who was so thoroughly overwhelmed by Veracini’s violin technique after meeting him on March 10, 1712 that he decided to completely overhaul his own technique. Tartini later recorded his newly won knowledge in a treatise entitled “L’arte dell’arco”. Some 25 years later, around the mid-18th century, anonymous versions of various movements of Corelli’s sonatas appeared in the “Manchester Manuscript” (ca. 1750). Only a few years before, French flautist Michel Blavet (1700 – 1768) had published his own arrangement of a Gavotte by Corelli in a collection entitled “Recueil de pièces” (Paris 1744). This arrangement is much more than an ornamented version of the movement and takes on the character of an independent series of variations.

      From the beginnings of the so-called “diminutions” in the 16th century all the way into the mid-18th century, the essence of Italian ornamentation involved playing around with a melody specified by the composer, i.e. taking longer, slower notes and breaking them up into shorter, faster ones. This represents welcome intervention in the compositional process with the intent of increasing the expression of the original piece and showcasing the improvisational strengths of the interpreter. If one looks at the Italian movements from the first half of the 18th century that have come down to us in ornamented form, the tendency towards increasing numbers as well as more complex ornaments is apparent. Corelli himself was content with transforming individual melodic points in groups of shorter, faster note values, although in each of these “islands”, small intervals remaining in one position of the fingerboard are preferred and large leaps are avoided. The melody can always be followed, even though the ornaments themselves often sound bizarre and not very “cantabile”, showing the character of a transient idiom that has been thrown in for effect.

      N one of the sonatas heard on this CD are performed with Corelli’s own ornaments. Tartini’s ornaments in the Sarabanda of Sonata No. 7 (track 8) probably give the best impression of early ornaments modeled on Corelli’s style. Likewise, William Babell also uses Corelli’s practice of “island-like” groups of fast note values when he uses the large leaps in the Sarabanda of Sonata No. 10 (track 16) as a springboard for inserting descending scales. Because such ornaments were very easy for him as a harpsichordist, we have taken the liberty of transferring the melody of this movement to the harpsichord and entrusting the recorder with a simpler, song-like line. The ornamented versions of the two fast movements from Corelli’s Sonata No. 9 (tracks 20 and 22) were written by Babell and Geminiani. While the original Giga differs from the ornamented version only through the addition of additional passages in sixteenth notes that lend the movement additional virtuosity, the closing Allegro, a “Tempo di Gavotta”, gains great intensity through the ornaments. Whereas Corelli’s original melodic line consists of uniform quarter notes, Geminiani adds not only eighth and sixteenth notes, but syncopations and arpeggiations as well, giving the movement a dynamic that Corelli’s model never had. This shows that the desire of the arranger went beyond that of ornamentally enriching his model; he wished to surpass the original composition.

      Michel Blavet’s changes to the Gavotta from Corelli’s Sonata No. 10 (track 18) must also be seen in this light. Blavet takes Corelli’s composition as the basis for an independent composition that impressively presents the technical possibilities of the flute by adding trills, scales and arpeggiations. Corelli certainly didn’t have this in mind. Matthew Dubourg’s arrangement is similar. Following the Gavotta from Corelli’s Sonata No. 11 (track 5), he adds four variations that confront the interpreter with various difficulties: fast scales, large leaps and breathtaking chains of triplets. Corelli himself may have given the impetus to take ornamentation so far that it became a complete sequences of variations, because his Sonata No. 12 is nothing other than a chain of “changes” over the well known theme “La Follia”. Veracini’s “improvements” consist primarily of putting the upper and lower voices in clear dialog with each other, connecting individual variations with transitions and making the solo line even more virtuosic and thus all the more effective.

      A comparison of Tartini’s ornaments in one of Corelli’s slow movements (track 8) with the versions from the “Manchester Manuscript” most clearly illustrates the path taken in Italian ornamentation up to 1750 and the changes of musical fashion to which ornamentation was subject. In place of ornaments that resemble diminutions and that focus on a note here, a note there, one now finds ornamental embellishment of the entire movement and all of its individual notes. The original melody is completely covered by the ornaments and can hardly be perceived even by one who is thoroughly acquainted with the simple form of the work. It would be no exaggeration to say that towards the end of this stylistic era, the performer and his ornaments were seen as more important than Corelli’s works, which were there to give the interpreter the opportunity to present his own lavish wealth of melodic invention and musical extravagance.

      It is therefore not surprising that this fashion soon became the subject of disapproval, and was regarded by contemporary composers as much too “vain”. Bach himself had already begun notating his own ornaments in his works in order to hinder performers, and Georg Friedrich Handel threatened to throw one of his singers out of the window because her ornaments had diverged too much from his own composition… By the French Revolution, not only the heads of aristocrats were rolling. Overstretched mannerisms in musical interpretation were finally and conclusively driven out. Now, instead of the older desire for as much “artifice” as possible, the demand for “naturalness” became paramount. Corelli’s sonatas from 1700 would continue to be considered “classic” by generations of musicians to come. Above all, his slow movements – unornamented – would fulfill all claims for “noble simplicity and quiet greatness”. The Corelli arrangements “à la mode”, being stylistic witnesses of the respective Zeitgeist, slowly went out of fashion and sank into oblivion.

      On this recording, Stefan Temmingh and Olga Watts reawaken this significant part of Corelli’s reception history and the musical practices of the 18th century. In a historical retrospective, and with a wealth of ornamented movements to choose from, the two performers have selected typical and impressive variants of each style, combining them within one sonata to form something new and independent – comparable to a costume or fashion designer who takes the most scintillating accessories from a theater’s treasure trove of baroque apparel to create historically- founded but novel fashion.

      Dr. Karsten Erik Ose
      Translation: Elizabeth Gahbler

      Tracklist hide

      CD 1
      • Sonata no. 11 in E major
        • 1.Preludio: Adagio
          (Manchester Manuscript)
        • 2.Allegro (Dubourg)02:22
        • 3.Adagio (Veracini)00:50
        • 4.Vivace (Dubourg)02:02
        • 5.Gavotta: Allegro (Dubourg)02:26
      • Sonata no. 7 in G minor (originally in D minor)
        • 6.Preludio: Vivace01:57
        • 7.Corrente: Allegro02:26
        • 8.Sarabanda: Largo (Tartini)01:50
        • 9.Giga: Allegro02:21
      • Sonata no. 8 in E minor
        • 10.Preludio: Largo
          (Manchester Manuscript)
        • 11.Allemanda: Allegro
          (Manchester Manuscript)
        • 12.Sarabanda: Largo
          (Manchester Manuscript)
        • 13.Giga: Allegro (Babell)02:09
      • Sonata no. 10 in C major (originally in F major)
        • 14.Preludio: Adagio01:56
        • 15.Allemanda: Allegro (Babell)02:12
        • 16.Sarabanda: Largo (Babell)01:35
        • 17.Giga: Allegro (Babell)02:09
        • 18.Gavotta: Allegro (Blavet)03:52
      • Sonata no. 9 in A major
        • 19.Preludio: Largo
          (Manchester Manuscript)
        • 20.Giga: Allegro (Geminiani/Babell)02:54
        • 21.Adagio02:22
        • 22.Tempo di Gavotta: Allegro (Geminiani)02:40
      • Sonata no. 12 “Follia” in G minor (originally in D minor, based on the Veracini version)
        • 23.Adagio00:40
        • 24.00:35
        • 25.Allegro02:00
        • 26.Larghetto00:45
        • 27.Allegro00:32
        • 28.Adagio00:39
        • 29.Allegro
        • 30.Adagio01:27
        • 31.Allegro01:11
        • 32.01:21
        • 33.Allegro01:16
      • Total:01:03:30