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Arcangelo Corelli’s reputation as an exacting director attracted to his orchestra the finest player-composers from all over Europe which in Rome in 1708 included the three Italians represented here – Giuseppe Valentini, Giovanni Mossi and Antonio Montanari. Corelli demanded the highest standards of ensemble-playing just as director Simon Standage does here at the head of Collegium Musicum 90, whose brilliance and togetherness is a delight throughout the six string concertos on this disc.

In the fidgety second movement fugue of Valentini’s concerto grosso Op. 7 No. 11, published in 1710, the unusual six solo parts dazzle in the complex counterpoint driven by the long catchy subject played at a thrilling sprint. They are balanced by a four-part ripieno whose unanimous stabbing chords, in the Vivaldi-esque third movement, conspire against the solo line slightly racing the beat. The stately processional of the fifth moves with a shared sense of grandeur. The finale tests Collegium’s synchronicity to the limit in tremolando semiquavers but nothing spoils the precision.

Corelli died a year later and the remaining works, two by Mossi, three by Montanari, post-date him while showing his diminishing influence. Mossi’s Op. 4 No. 12, dated 1727, has the Corellian churchy four movements, beginning slow and reverent, while No11 experiments with a fast start, bouncing from the outset without warm-up. Its middle adagio shifts and slides in melting layers, oozing dissonance. Montanari’s Op. 1, dated 1731 ranges from the Corellian simplicity of No. 2 to the unusual solemn unisons of No. 6 and mould- breaking opening solo of No. 7. Standage and co bring alive the originality and beauty of an era when high art was almost commonplace.

Rick Jones Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing