Corelli's Op. 5 Violin Sonatas have always been admired by chamber music fans; there are a couple of good recordings of them already available. But this new one by Baroque specialist and virtuoso Andrew Manze and harpsichordist Richard Egarr presents the sonatas in such a bright, exciting, and improvisatory light that they seem brand new. During the composer's lifetime, these sonatas were widely played and tremendously influential; there's a good chance that it was assumed that virtuosi took what was written on the page as a starting point for embellishing and sheer showing off.
Arcangelo Corelli's remarkable reputation, established during his lifetime and maintained ever since, is based almost exclusively on his six published collections of works: the Trio Sonatas, Opp.1-4, the Concerti grossi, Op.6, and the twelve violin sonatas recorded here. Born in 1653 into a family of prosperous landowners, and trained as a violinist in Bologna, by his mid-twenties Corelli was in Rome and there rose rapidly to the peak of his profession. As both performer and composer he was renowned as a perfectionist, a fact reflected in both the size of his output and the polish with which it was prepared for publication.
Mitzi Meyerson likes to come up with surprising musical finds or rediscoveries and her latest, the Opera Prima of Giovanni Battista Somis, is as fascinating as her recordings devoted to Richard Jones and Gottlieb Muffat. Indeed, the harpsichordist chanced upon the score for this set of Baroque violin sonatas – first published in 1717 – when investigating the music of Richard Jones in the British Library, finding thereby another trove of forgotten Baroque gems. Somis worked for the Dukes of Savoy, initially in Turin, in the early 18th century, but studied with Corelli in Rome, later befriended Vivaldi, and himself taught many subsequent prominent violinists, including Jean-Marie Leclair.
With these words ("Great virtuoso of the violin, and our contemporary Orpheus"), Francesco Gasparini, writing in his 1708 figured bass tutor, succinctly described Arcangelo Corelli, one of the most revered and influential composers of the entire baroque era.