Jonathan Guyonnet / Stefano Molardi

Corelli and Friends in Rome

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Baroque violinist Jonathan Guyonnet, a native of San Remo in northwestern Italy despite the Anglo given name and French surname, has been active with the historical-instrument group I Virtuosi Delle Muse. He has had training from a variety of early music stalwarts but belongs firmly in the contemporary Italian camp, combining deep research into ornamentation and other aspects of performance practice with a dramatic, pleasingly flashy approach. Here he adds another strong point: an original program that will fill in a lot of background for lovers of instrumental music of the High Baroque. Rome was the source of a lot of the Italian virtuosi who populated English concert stages in the early 18th century, and Guyonnet here turns his attention to the violinists of Rome itself, their styles, and their interactions. He employs quick, sharply accented ornaments that give a fair approximation of the ways a soloist of the time would have tried to get an audience's attention. Guyonnet offers some unusual pieces, including no fewer than three world recording premieres (confusingly designated "First world recording" in the track list). These will be worth the price of admission by themselves for Baroque violin enthusiasts. The Sonata in D minor by Antonio Montanari, played from a manuscript from Dresden (indicating its fame in its own time), features a continuo that drops out for the "giga senza basso" at the end. This unusual stroke receives its full effect from Guyonnet. There are several pieces for violin alone, each contributing something to the picture of this virtuoso form that culminated in Bach's sonatas and partitas. The Sonata for violin solo by Georg Muffat fits the concept; Muffat traveled to Rome and studied there. The Corelli Violin Sonata, Op. 5/9, that opens the album is a bit out of place; it comes from a later English attempt to set Geminiani's performances of Corelli down in musical notation. But this unusual piece of evidence for Baroque ornamentation is interesting on its own. About the only real downside is the sound environment of All Saints Church in Tudeley, in South East England; it's unsuitable to this music, which would have been heard in rooms filled with well-upholstered furniture and well-upholstered humans, and Guyonnet's violin often sounds harsh. Booklet notes are in Italian, German, English, and French.

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