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Roaming the Baroque

This episode is dedicated to the English baroque composer Charles Avison. He wasn’t a big fan of Handel’s music, but he had a lot of admiration for his Italian colleagues Geminiani, Scarlatti, and Marcello and arranged their music.


Charles Avison (1709-1770) was an remarkable composer. Firstly, because he lived and worked almost his entire life in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in northern England, and not in London or Oxford, the music centers of his time. Secondly, because he didn’t share the general admiration for George Frideric Handel. He caused a stir when he claimed in an essay that Francesco Geminiani, whom he had met during his studies in London, was a better composer. He paid tribute to him by arranging his violin sonatas opus 1 into concerti grossi. He did the same with harpsichord sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti, another Italian composer he admired.

Finally, there was also Benedetto Marcello, who garnered admiration with his settings of the first 50 psalms in paraphrases in Italian. They were sung throughout Europe, often in translations. Avison also provided such a translation, and in this program, one of Marcello’s psalms in his translation can be heard.

In addition to Avison’s arrangements of other composers’ music, we also hear two original chamber music works.

Charles Avison (1709-1770)

  1. Concerto grosso after Geminiani No. 8 in B
  2. Concerto grosso after Geminiani No. 9 in F The Avison Ensemble conducted by Pavlo Beznosiuk (cd: Avison/Geminiani: “Sonatas for Violin and Basso Continuo, Op. 1” – divine art dda21210, 2007)
  3. Trio Sonata for Two Violins and Basso Continuo in D, Op. 1,1 London Baroque (cd: “The Trio Sonata in 18th-Century England” – BIS-CD-1765, 2010)
  4. Sonata for Harpsichord, Two Violins, and Cello in C, Op. 5,2 London Baroque (cd: “English music of the eighteenth century” – Amon Ra CD-SAR 14, 1984)


Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739), arr. Charles Avison

5. Psalm 46: ‘God is our refuge and our strength’ Voces8, Les Inventions conducted by Barnaby Smith and Patrick Ayrton

Charles Avison

6. Concerto grosso after Domenico Scarlatti No. 6 in D Café Zimmermann (cd: “Concertos in seven parts done from the lessons of Domenico Scarlatti” – Alpha 031, 2003)


7. From Concerto grosso after Domenico Scarlatti No. 5 in D minor: allegro Café Zimmermann (cd: see 6)

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