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The Trio Sonata through Two Centuries
London Baroque
rec. 2002-2012, St Martin’s, East Woodhay, Hampshire, England; Länna Church, Sweden (CD 2)
BIS BIS9050 [8 CDs: 568:25]

2018 has been a bountiful year for anniversary commemorations in the record industry. I seem to have reviewed my fair share. This year the eminent chamber group London Baroque celebrate the fact that they have been together for forty years. BIS have done them proud with this beautifully packaged set of eight CDs tracing the development of the trio sonata over two centuries.  All eight discs have previously been released individually over a ten-year period between 2003 and 2013, and have garnered some positive and enthusiastic reviews along the way. As their publicity states, the recordings are “the fruit of all those years of research, experiment and discovery”. What we get is over nine hours of superb music and compelling music-making.

In the seventeenth and the first half of the eighteenth centuries, the trio sonata reached its zenith. Much of the music in the set is scored for two violins and continuo, but we occasionally digress down alternate paths where the viola and bass viol replace the second violin and offer an element of attractive contrast. The form itself was popular with many composers as evidenced in the wide range represented. The music is gathered from England, France, Germany and Italy. Each country is allocated two discs, each individually showcasing seventeenth and eighteenth century works.

The London Baroque perform with unruffled ease and a deep sense of shared purpose. There is a wonderful empathy between the players, and they manage to achieve a striking lucidity of texture. Ornamentation is always idiomatic, discreet, tasteful and musically informed. They certainly know how to probe fully the possibilities of the works, bringing a youthful vitality to each. What adds further to the interest is that they frequently venture off-piste, exploring some of the more unusual names. Composers, including John Coprario, Christopher Simpson, John Ravenscroft, Thomas Erskine and Jean-Nicholas Geoffroy, are names completely new to me.

There is so much beautiful music here, that I will only pick out some of the highlights. Disc 8 features the Sonata No. 1 in G major by Domenico Gallo. Many will recognize the first movement as the music which opens Stravinsky’s Pulcinella. Some of Gallo’s trio sonatas were thought by some, for many years, to be the work of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, including by Stravinsky himself. Perhaps the best-known piece in the set is Vivaldi’s Op. 1 No. 12 trio sonata La Folia, and London Baroque deliver a refreshing reading. Then there's the elegance and charm of the Musette from Handel’s Op 5 No 2, enriched by some delicate florid ornamentation. I am amazed by the glorious palette of sonorities achieved by the musicians. A good example is the middle movement of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Trio Sonata in B flat major. The violins are instructed to play muted and the effect is what I can only describe as a bronzed luminosity. The lengthiest work in the collection is Couperin'’ ten-movement ‘L'Impériale’ (from Les Nations, publ. 1726). With beautifully realized dance movements the players don’t hang around, but inject plenty of frisson into the music.

The ensemble have a real affection for the music they perform, and these recordings radiate their infectious involvement and outstanding musicality. The BIS sound is first rate, and the instrumental balance cannot be faulted in any way. Liner notes, courtesy of Charles Medlam, are provided in English, German and French, and successfully place the music in its historical context. All is beautifully presented in a sturdy box. This is an outstanding achievement, and if you like Baroque music you’re in for a treat.

Stephen Greenbank 


CD 1 [70:15] 
The Trio Sonata in 17th-Century England 
Orlando Gibbons: Three fantasias a 3
John Coprario: Fantasia Suite
William Lawes: Sett No.1
John Jenkins: Fancy & Ayre for 2 trebles, bass & organ; [Fantasia] a 3
Matthew Locke: Suite in D minor
Christopher Simpson: [Suite] in D major
John Blow: Sonata in A major; Ground in G minor
Henry Purcell: Sonata XX in D major, from Sonatas in Four Parts

CD 2 [70:58]
The Trio Sonata in 18th-Century England 
John (Giovanni) Ravenscroft: Sonata in G major, Op.1 No.8
Georg Friedrich Händel: Sonata in G minor, Op.2 No.5/HWV390; Sonata in D major, Op.5 No.2/HWV397
Charles Avison: Sonata in D minor, Op.1 No.1
William Boyce: Sonata in D major, [Op.1] No.5
Thomas Arne: Sonata in G major, Op.3 No.2
Karl Friedrich Abel: Sonata in G major, Op.3 No.1
Thomas Erskine (Earl of Kelly): Sonata VI in G major from Six Sonatas for Two Violins and a Bass

CD 3 [69:56] 
The Trio Sonata in 17th-Century France 
Lully, Jean-Baptiste Lully: Trios pour le Coucher du Roi
Jean Nicolas Geoffroy: Dialogue pour le clavessin et les violes
Louis Couperin: Simphonie; Dialogue
François Couperin: La Superbe
Gaspard Le Roux: Suite No.2 in D major
Louis-Nicolas Clérambault: Sonata in G major La Félicité
Marin Marais: Suite in G minor from Pièces en Trio
Jean-Féry Rebel: Tombeau de Monsieur Lully

CD 4 [71:05] 
The Trio Sonata in 18th-Century France 
François Couperin: ‘L’Impériale’ (from Les Nations)
Charles Dollé: Sonata in G minor, Op.1 No.6
Jean-Marie Leclair: Sonata No.3 in G minor, Op.13 No.6
Joseph Bodin de Boismortier: Trio in E minor, Op.37 No.2
Jean-Pierre Guignon: Sonata in D major, Op.4 No.2

CD 5 [73:06] 
The Trio Sonata in 17th-Century Germany 
Johann Vierdanck: Suite in A major
Nicolaus a Kempis: Symphonia No.2 ‘Dolorosa’
Johann Schmelzer: Lanterly (Sonate a 3)
Dietrich Becker: Sonata No.26 in A major from Sonaten und Suiten
Johann Rosenmüller: Sonata in E minor
Matthias Weckmann: Sonata in G major
Carolus Hacquart: Sonata No.6 in D minor from Harmonia Parnassia
Dietrich Buxtehude: Trio Sonata in G major
Johann Kaspar Kerll: Trio Sonata in F major
Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber: Partita No.6 in D major from Harmonia artificiosa-ariosa

CD 6 [67:00]
The Trio Sonata in 18th-Century Germany 
Johann Gottlieb Goldberg: Trio sonata in C major
Johann Friedrich Fasch: Trio sonata in C minor, FWV N:c2
Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach: Trio sonata in F major, W.VII/3
Johann Gottlieb Graun: Trio in B flat major from Musikalisches Vielerley
Georg Philipp Telemann: Trio in G major, TWV42:G10
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: Trio sonata in B flat major, Wq158 (H584), from Musikalisches Mancherley

CD 7 [68:51]
The Trio Sonata in 17th-Century Italy 
Giovanni Paolo Cima: Sonata a Tre
Francesco Turini: Sonata a Tre Secondo Tuono
Giovanni Battista Buonamente: Sonata 8 sopra ‘La Romanesca’
Dario Castello: Sonata Decima a 3
Tarquinio Merula: Chiaconna
Marco Uccellini: Sonata 26 sopra ‘La Prosperina’
Andrea Falconiero: Folias echa para mi Señora Doña Tarolilla de Carallenos
Maurizio Cazzati: Ciaconna Biagio Marini: Sonata sopra fuggi dolente core
Francesco Cavalli: Canzon a 3
Giovanni Legrenzi: Sonata à 3
Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi: Il Marcquetta
Giovanni Maria Bononcini: Sonata Quinta dell’ Ottavo Tuono un tuono più alto
Giovanni Battista Vitali: Ciaconna
Giacinto Pestolozza: Sonata 12
Arcangelo Corelli: Sonata, Op.1 No.12

CD 8 [77:14]
The Trio Sonata in 18th-Century Italy 
Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni: Balletto in G major, Op.3 No.3
Francesco Antonio Bonporti: Sonata in G minor, Op.6 No.7
Antonio Vivaldi: Folia, Op.1 No.12
Giovanni Bononcini: Sonata II from XII Sonatas for the Chamber (1732)
Nicola Porpora: Sonata, Op.2 No.III
Giuseppe Sammartini Pietro Locatelli: Sonata in D major, Op.8 No.8
Domenico Gallo: Sonata No.1 in G major
Giuseppe Tartini: Suonata a tre in D minor 


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