AvisonAvison: Concertos in Seven Parts after Scarlatti.

Charles Avison (1709-1770) was an English composer of some little repute in his time (he’s mentioned in Sterne’s Tristam Shandy) whose own work is now pretty much forgotten.

In these pieces, Avison took a set of keyboard works by the great and by no means now forgotten Domenico Scarlatti (who was immensely popular in England at the time), orchestrated them for string ensemble and put them together in a set of suites.

I dimly recall that when I mentioned purchasing this CD some time back, one of my fellow port-swillers was less than enthusiastic about the idea.  I really cannot imagine why.  Avison’s arrangements are musickally delightful, and the group Café Zimmerman serve them up with vim and viggah.

I often muse when listening to musick of this sort how fortunate I am to be living in a time when it can truly be appreciated.  I remember as a boy listening to Bach and Handel, but most especially Telemann, being performed in the soupy and heavy-handed mid-20th Century style more suitable to the late Romantics and detesting it.  It is only with the advent of the Period Instrument movement beginning in the 70’s that the true beauty and vitality of much Baroque musick has come back to life.  (A reasonable comparison would be the restoration work done on the great frescoes of Michalangelo and other Renaissance painters that has removed the centuries of grime and allowed their true colors to shine forth.)

These days there is a positive embarrassment of riches, thanks to ensembles like Zimmerman, the Brook Street Band, Musica Antiqua Köln and other groups too numerous to mention.   Which, as I say, makes me feel extremely fortunate: I would much rather listen to even run-of-the-mill Baroque musick than anything but the best of any other period.