With these words ("Great virtuoso of the violin, and our contemporary Orpheus"), Francesco Gasparini, writing in his 1708 figured bass tutor, succinctly described Arcangelo Corelli, one of the most revered and influential composers of the entire baroque era.
Rarely do we feel the presence of Bach so vividly on a recording as we do here with this set of Trio Sonata arrangements, performed by violins, viola da gamba, and harpsichord. What a perfect combination, thanks to Richard Boothby's settings and to the wonderfully synergistic interaction among these very experienced early music players–violinists Catherine Mackintosh (in her best recorded performance in a while) and Catherine Weiss, gambist Boothby, and harpsichordist Robert Woolley.
Corelli's Op. 5 Violin Sonatas have always been admired by chamber music fans; there are a couple of good recordings of them already available. But this new one by Baroque specialist and virtuoso Andrew Manze and harpsichordist Richard Egarr presents the sonatas in such a bright, exciting, and improvisatory light that they seem brand new. During the composer's lifetime, these sonatas were widely played and tremendously influential; there's a good chance that it was assumed that virtuosi took what was written on the page as a starting point for embellishing and sheer showing off.
Arcangelo Corelli's remarkable reputation, established during his lifetime and maintained ever since, is based almost exclusively on his six published collections of works: the Trio Sonatas, Opp.1-4, the Concerti grossi, Op.6, and the twelve violin sonatas recorded here. Born in 1653 into a family of prosperous landowners, and trained as a violinist in Bologna, by his mid-twenties Corelli was in Rome and there rose rapidly to the peak of his profession. As both performer and composer he was renowned as a perfectionist, a fact reflected in both the size of his output and the polish with which it was prepared for publication.
If one tends to associate Albinoni, the Venetian-born contemporary of Vivaldi with the infamous and spurious Adagio, or at least a handful of his authentic oboe concertos, it is worth noting that he also wrote some 55 operas and nine opuses worth of instrumental pieces. Among these are the twelve Trio Sonatas, op. 1  […] In all ways, these are splendid performances, beautifully articulated, sensitive as to dynamic contrasts, carefully guaged rhythmically […] The players catch the gravity of the slow movements especially well, often with a Corellian sweetness […] The reproduction of the instruments, fairly high in level, is bright but wonderfully clear in a natural acoustic. (Igor Kipnis, Goldberg)
Until recently it was believed that the only extant copy … was permanently lost during the Second World War, but a surviving example was recently located by the undersigned. It is extraordinary music, perhaps the best of Schenck's works. These twelve sonatas demonstrate an astonishing variety of affects through which the composer displays a noteworthy sensitivity for the different keys, lending each sonata its own particular character.
Nowhere else in Schenck's works is the influence of Italian instrumental music so obvious; the clearest influence is the trio sonatas of Arcangelo Corelli but there are also traces of Giovanni Legrenzi's style as well as allusions to contemporary German and Dutch publications. (Pieter Dirksen)