BMC 334
A Double-CD Album

Frencesco GEMINIANI
(1687-1762)

Twelve Concerti Grossi
being an orchestrated rendition of
Corelli's Sonatas for Violin & Continuo Opus 5

Disc One, BMC 33: Concertos 1-7
Music Sample: Concerto 1 in D
Music Sample: Concerto 5 in g
Music Sample: Concerto 7 in d

Disc Two, BMC 34: Concertos 8-12,
plus Concerto Grosso Op 3/2
Music Sample: Concerto 11 in E
Music Sample: Concerto Grosso Op 3/2

The Modena Chamber Orchestra

Francesco Geminiani was born at Lucca, in Tuscany, in December 1687. At an early age he showed considerable talent on the violin after being taught by his father. Later he studied the violin under Carlo Ambrogio Lonati in Milan and then in Rome under the celebrated master, Corelli. At the age of 20 he took a position as violinist with the Town Orchestra for three years. He then moved to Naples in 1711 to take up the position as Leader of the Opera Orchestra. By this time he had become recognized as an outstanding violin virtuoso.

In 1714, he tried his fortune in England, where his brilliant violin playing immediately met with great success. London had become a major European music center, thanks in part to Handel, who had himself studied in Rome under Corelli and thus brought a measure of Italian musical style with him. Geminiani gained much support from the aristocracy and leading figures at the Royal Court, and was invited to play the violin before George I, accompanied at the harpsichord by no less than Handel. He soon established himself in London as the leading master of violin-playing, with his concerts, his published compositions, and his theoretical treatises, the first and most important being "The Art of Playing the Violin" (1731) which included all the technical principles of essential violin performance.

At this period of English musical life, as the essayist Roger North testified, Corelli's music had rapidly become the staple diet of players and music clubs alike: "Then came over Corelly's first consort that cleared the ground of all other sorts of musick whatsoever," wrote North in about 1726. "By degrees the rest of his consorts, and at last the conciertos [0p. 6] came, all of which are to the musitians like the bread of life." Whether out of respect for his teacher, or to "cash in on" his teacher's popularity is a matter of speculation; whatever his motive, Geminiani based his earliest published Concertos on Corelli's Sonatas for Violin and Continuo, Op 5.

His own Concertos, Op.2 and 3, appeared in 1732 and 1733, the Op.3 Concerti Grossi being amongst his most popular works at the time, and we take the opportunity to give one of the finest examples of these, the Concerto No.2 in g minor, at the end of this collection of 12 Concerti on Vol. 2 (BMC 34). He revised and reissued them in full score in about 1755. In the opinion of Burney - usually a stern critic of Geminiani - the Op.3 concertos "established his character, and placed him at the head of all the masters then living, in this species of composition" (General History of Music, Vol. 4, 1789).

Geminiani provided ornaments for both slow and fast movements as well as cadenzas; he advocated the use of vibrato 'as often as possible'. The expressiveness of his playing was much admired by both Hawkins and Burney; Tartini tellingly described him as 'il furibondo'.

He gained further fame from the publication of a series of practical treatises which were much reprinted, translated and paraphrased. In addition to The Art of Playing on the Violin, Geminiani produced Rules for Playing in a True Taste (1748), revised a year later as A Treatise of Good Taste in the Art of Musick, a Guida harmonica with supplement (c.l754), The Art of Accompaniment (c.l754) - written from the soloist's point of view - and The Art of Playing the Guitar or Cittra (Edinburgh, 1760). When considered together with his music and the implications of the alterations he made when reissuing collections such as Op.1 and 4, Geminiani's treatises represent an important source of post-Corellian performance practices.

His music is always pleasantly entertaining, at times emotionally moving, or perhaps catching the interest with its counterpoint. In the set of twelve of course, we are seeing not only Geminiani, but a reflection of his teacher, the great Corelli.

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