It's often remarked, if not always observed, that the violin music of Arcangelo Corelli was heavily ornamented in performance. South African-Dutch recorder player Stefan Temmingh, who in the past has experimented with fusions of Baroque music with black South African traditions, here takes things a step further than anyone else ever has when it comes to the ornamentation of Corelli: he notes that Corelli remained popular for decades, for much of the eighteenth century, in fact, and notes that over a period of that length fashions in ornamentation would have changed. And, indeed, he comes up with loads of evidence; arrangements of Corelli's music, mostly by violinists, became more and more ornate over the course of the century until finally the whole idea fell out of fashion and people started to play Corelli straight. And, on top of this, he does it all on a recorder. There's something a bit outrageous about all this, and a piece like the Violin Sonata in G minor, Op. 5/12, "La Follia," seems to strain the recorder to its limits. Moreover, he mostly relies on arrangements of individual movements made by Italian, French, and English virtuosi; he has to put them together into mixed sonatas that don't always fit together. All this said, Temmingh proves his point. The arrangers range from Francesco Geminiani, who studied with Corelli and is thought to have replicated some aspects of Corelli's style, to the unidentified compiler of a manuscript in Manchester, England, around 1750, who pulled out all the stops and was essentially using Corelli as a basis for new creative activity. Much of this music has never been heard on records before, and the best part is that Temmingh and Russian harpsichordist Olga Watts approach it with the fun it deserves (another outrageous element is provided by the graphic design; the best stuff is on the inside of the booklet). Everything is clearly explained in the booklet essay, and the idea of a recorder player trying to equal the feats of a violinist is not something that would necessarily have thrown an eighteenth century listener. With superior sonics from Oehms, as usual, this ranks as one of the more offbeat and intriguing Baroque releases of its time (it was recorded in 2007 and released in 2009).
Corelli à la Mode Review
by James Manheim