Given the (generally) favourable things that have been said about the Avison Ensemble's traversal of Corelli's works on Linn, I decided to give it a try starting with this set. I've always enjoyed the music of Corelli, and in the case of the chamber sonatas, have long been fond of a single disc of select sonatas done by Trevor Pinnock and members of the English Concert on Archiv. Pinnock captures the rhythms nicely and brings an improvisatory quality to the playing that is quite meditative. I also find Pinnock's 2-disc set of the Concerti Grossi to still be the most satisfying compared with other accounts (e.g. Chiara Banchini-Harmonia Mundi or Fabio Biondi-Opus111)
I'm sad to say that I did not enjoy the current release with the Avison Ensemble. And no, it's not because, as some say, a full disc of Corelli's sonatas is bound to be tedious listening. It's rather to do with the acerbic sound of strings resulting from an unflattering recording. No doubt, the playing is impressive, but the overall impression is all too metallic and the ear craves a few aural recesses in which to recover but which, alas, it does not find.
As a matter of comparison, take the Purcell Quartet's readings of the Opus 1-4 chamber sonatas on Chandos (released as a 4CD set in 2003 in fully remastered sound). Theirs is a more intimate and transparent sound, less inflated and extrovert than we are given on the Linn recording. I like it that the Purcell's readings are more introverted in a chamber-like way than the Avison's which seem, at least by comparison, more outwardly bold. I'm not trying to be disingenuous to these very fine players or to Linn for these are nicely presented volumes. But as produced here it really is a case of not being able to get through a full disc without succumbing to aural fatigue, something I do not get with the Purcell Quartet readings (which would be my preference) or Trevor Pinnock's single disc mentioned earlier.
As another reviewer says, essential listening, perhaps not all in one go but that is a matter of choice. I have to disagree with the reviewer who complains about recording quality, listening on my high end hifi system the sound is excellent and just what one would expect for a small group of players in period style. Don't hesitate to buy this set if it's contents appeal, you will surely enjoy the latest recording from these superb musicians.
The sound quality of this recording is in my opinion utterly appalling. I could not listen for very long before having to turn it off. To me, it sounded thin, shrill and piercing. The performers probably deserved better than that IMO.
This is essential for all those who love the Baroque Period in music. The performances are near flawless and repay regular listening. I must say that I prefer a "little and often" rather than large chunks of such music all at once. I lose my concentration otherwise.