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GRAMOPHONE (04/2015)
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Reviewer: David Vickers

There is no direct evidence that Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762) studied with Corelli in Rome. We can safely say he was an ardent disciple, not least because he produced an imaginative collection of six concerto grosso arrangements modelled on his hero’s Op 5 Violin Sonatas. Printed in London in 1726, the most famous piece is Geminiani’s orchestrated version of Corelli’s variations on La follia, which receives a robust and vividly exaggerated performance from Les Passions de l’Ame. Meret Lüthi plays the principal violin part with commendable fantasy and nurtures scintillating textures in some extraordinary quiet variations. Contrasting louder variations are abrasive but there is certainly no whiff of complacency in this spirited account.


La forest enchantée was produced many years later for a pantomime based on Tasso’s poem Gerusalemme liberata at Paris’s Théâtre des Tuileries in 1754, and on Geminiani’s return to Britain he performed and published a concert version. Including flutes, horns and trumpet, the music is infused with French dance, which shows a side of Geminiani that those only familiar with his Corellian concerti grossi would not suspect. Entertaining, varied and masterly, The Inchanted Forest (as it was known in England) has not been recorded as often as it deserves, so these lively performances are welcome – occasional bluntness and imperfections make this sound like a real performance rather than a studio product edited into infinity, but perhaps Les Passions de l’Ame are reigniting a conversation rather than offering the last word. Handel’s Roman cantata Armida abbandonata (also based on Tasso) functions as an interlude; Armida’s oscillating emotions as she watches Rinaldo’s ship sail away are sung with attractive sensitivity by Robin Johannsen.


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