Harmonia Mundi's Geminiani: Concerti Grossi VII-XII (after Corelli, Op. 5) is a single disc excerpted from a larger set issued in 1999 including all of Geminiani's concerti based on models of Corelli. That set was, and is, something of an expensive proposition, but certainly a first-class choice for the music of Geminiani, for the way the Academy of Ancient Music sounds under the direction of Andrew Manze and as representative of late English Baroque music as a whole. This disc is a single-disc condensation drawn from the earlier set that comes, as an added bonus, with a thick catalog of Harmonia Mundi's active releases, and the asking price is modest.
How do you present music by an unknown composer on a market which already overflows with discs and in particular in a time of economic decline? You can devote a whole disc to this repertoire, but there is a good chance that a considerable part of the target group would remain sceptical. So many interpreters pretend that the music they have discovered is of world-class quality. Do we need to believe them? Emilio Percan tries to convince us that the music of Giovanni Antonio Piani is really worthwhile. He does so by presenting it together with music by two well-known masters of his time. That seems the most sensible way: if the listener is disappointed about Piani, he still has Handel and Geminiani to enjoy.
– Johan van Veen, MusicWeb International
The first six sonatas, or the sonate da chiesa as they are commonly referred to, were published in Geminiani’s arrangements in 1726 and met with immediate success. Not only were the sonorities amplified by the instrumental expansion, but Corelli’s difficult-to-play sonatas were now within reach of violinists with more modest abilities. The skill with which Geminiani embellished Corelli’s music while remaining true to Corelli is immediately evident when Corelli and Geminiani are played back-to-back. It is roughly the aural equivalent of a black and white photo now viewed in color. Geminiani’s arrangements of the second set of six sonatas, the sonate da camera, were soon completed but did not meet with the same immediate popularity. The last sonata/concerto, No. 12 in D Minor, the Follia, is structurally different from the others. It is a theme with 25 variations and has taken on a life of its own separate from the other 11 concertos.
One tends to associate the virtuoso violin repertoire with the 19th century, but in their own way these five sonatas, written between 1714 and 1743, offer an equally dazzling display of speed, facility, bow control and tonal variety. No wonder: the composers were among the foremost violin virtuosos of their time, as well as tireless innovators of technique and style; several even wrote treatises on violin playing. The earliest, and least familiar, is Michele Mascitti, a Neapolitan who moved to Paris when he was 30… –Edith Eisler
In this set of six sonatas for cello and continuo, Geminiani [1687-1762] follows the Corellian model […] of movements—except for the last, which is in three movements. Geminiani’s writing for the solo instrument shows an advance on Corelli in the brilliant figuration in the fast movements. Slow movements can sometimes be a bit perfunctory, lasting less than a minute, though this is not always the case. Geminiani apparently enjoyed working with the sonorities created by two cellos, and in his contrapuntal movements sometimes allows the solo and continuo cellos to cross lines.
Jaap ter Linden […] handles Geminiani’s elaborate music with ease. His smooth and rounded tone serves the music well. The continuo players provide able accompaniment. The performers are recorded in close perspective in excellent sound. (Ron Salemi, Fanfare)