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  Arts Music -
  47724-8 (2 discs)
  Corelli: Violin Sonatas Op. 5 - Dantone
  Corelli: Violin Sonatas Op. 5

Stefano Montanari (violin)
Accademia Bizantina
Ottavio Dantone (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Chamber
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 2

Reviews: 2

Site review by ramesh March 27, 2006
Performance:   Sonics:  
That Corelli's '12 Sonate a Violino e Violone o Cimbalo Op.V' were published on the 1st of January 1700, seems to be a clear artistic manifesto for the forthcoming century, rather than for astrological or liturgical reasons. He was famous as a violinist, and to quote the inimitable liner notes of the PentaTone SACD of his Concerti Grossi, 'Corelli was the hard rocker of his day-- a cult personality with a cult following'. Contrary to this reputation, these violin works are more known for their classical proportions and grace, rather than any Haydnesque 'Sturm und Drang.' These works are essentially the earliest set in the current violin repertoire. They appear to be a staple for students, in large part because they don't possess the prodigious double and triple stopping requirements of Bach's solo violin works. The almost bland symmetry of their phrases and straightforward development sections make them interpretatively far simpler than the Mozart and Beethoven sonatas; indeed, they seem to play themselves without the need of much emotional maturity on the part of the players. Of course, this by no means implies they are a walkover to perform profoundly well. Sonatas 7 to 11 are essentially suites, consisting of a prelude followed by dance movements. The final sonata, the celebrated 'La Folia', is a theme and variations.

The distinction of these discs lies in the arrangements. Most performances on record of these works have been violin with keyboard, and occasionally with a discreet cello continuo. This work features the 'Accademia Bizantina'. In addition to the solo violin, a cellist, additional violin, archlute, baroque guitar and organ are also credited. Not all of these play together, but are used to generate much needed variety between individual movements, as well as to present what sounds like a stripped down concerto grosso. The comparison to the rather spartan textures on Arthur Grumiaux's beautifully urbane performances on Philips CDs 462306 is quite startling. Playing one entire CD of the Grumiaux right through is not as palatable as playing one of the new SACDs fully, because of the greater variety in the latter; however Grumiaux does leave one with an abiding sense of greater spiritual depth. The Arts SACD set seems to be in the post-I Musici Italian style of baroque performances, which emphasise the mercurial tendencies of the music. The spontaneity and brio is achieved without any noticeable fraying of ensemble or intonation.

The Italian 'Arts Label' is an unabashedly audiophile brand. One knows this when the technical documentation rivals Telarc for its exhaustiveness, whilst omitting musicological trivia such as the musical pitch and editions used. Luckily, it seems that neither the services of Shun Mook Mpingo discs, Shakti Stone Electromagnetic Stabilisers, cable elevators nor the Shroud of Turin were needed to midwife these successful recordings. Arts had previously released on DVD and DVD-A. It is interesting to compare this SACD to the Arts DVD-V of the same Accademia Bizantina with the same soloist, in Vivaldi's entire opus 8, including the 'Four Seasons'. This latter disc lasts 112 minutes, and was recorded in 1999. Both this and the Corelli, which was recorded in the same church as the Vivaldi, but in 2002, employ 24bit/96kHz PCM. The Corelli is more closely observed, almost giving a 'wall of sound' quality in the more exuberant movements. Both seem to bear the 'house sound' of lush immediacy without excessive reverberance, and a rich bass resonance which might be classed as tubby on some replay systems. The Corelli SACD has less bite on the leading edge of the notes compared to the Vivaldi, and a fuller but more relaxed flow to the texture. If I hadn't the benefit of the documentation, I wouldn't have disagreed if told it was a pure DSD recording. Hence, the engineers seem to have avoided the pitfalls inherent in close recording of period instruments, whilst retaining the immediacy and dynamic range. Those averse to 'in your face' recording styles will be pleased.

The combination of florid ornamentation, elaborate arrangement and recording style give a premium to excitement and toe-tapping brilliance. 'Four Seasons' aficionados will love this in their audio sand box. Serenity and repose are not abolished, but the balance is tipped in the opposite direction to the traditional violin and piano/harpsichord versions. Generally, the slow movements such as the sarabandes in the sonate da camera are played more slowly than traditional performances, but with much elaboration of line. Whether this romanticism is out of period style can be argued, but the performers to their credit state their case compellingly. The concluding allegros in virtually all the works are closer to presto. Some of the slower movements are so elaborate that in playing the corresponding version by Grumiaux and Castagnone one can be forgiven for thinking one has selected the wrong track. This is not to say one is correct over the other, so much as to propose that even if one has a perfectly adequate CD of these works, it is worth considering this set for both musical and audiophile perspectives. Those who miss the element of mystery or chasteness in one slow movement or another will cavil, but these works are not celebrated for this emotional dimension.
An audiophile recording with performances worthy of a major label.

Review by JJ June 1, 2007 (3 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Le compositeur et violoniste italien Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713), issu d'une famille fortunée, fut un instrumentiste fort célèbre en son temps et son métier de compositeur fut tout autant apprécié. A ce propos, le musicologue Denis Arnold considère que "le succès de Corelli repose en majeure partie sur sa conception moderne de l'harmonie. Il a été l'un des premiers compositeurs à faire varier de façon significative les tonalités dans un mouvement binaire et son utilisation savoureuse de la dissonance est extrêmement intéressante, sans être maladroite ni violente. Si ses thèmes n'ont pas la qualité rythmique incisive de ceux de Vivaldi ou de Bach, il sait indéniablement créer, comme eux, de longues mélodies bien équilibrées".Les Sonates pour Violon Opus 5 qui nous occupent ici, sont au nombre de douze. Avec un naturel confondant et une beauté de timbre miraculeux, Stefano Montanari mène son violon au cur d'un discours musical éclairé. Dirigé du clavecin, de mains de maître, par Ottavio Dantone, l'Accademia Bizantina construit avec finesse et précision chacun des mouvements de ces Sonates d'église et de chambre. La palette des coloris est une véritable splendeur et la prise de son audiophile ajoute la profondeur nécessaire pour une respiration optimale des instruments. Voici, sans conteste, un des plus beaux albums de musique baroque sur support SACD.

Jean-Jacques Millo

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Arcangelo Corelli - Violin Sonatas Op. 5