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F. Geminiani, Concerti Grossi, Academy of Ancient Music, Andrew Manze (released September 12, 2000)
The most substantial and, to my ears, best of the six is no. 12, the final piece in the set and the one that breaks the mold. In D minor, it is a set of 24 variations on the Follia theme, a simple little ditty and set of chords that has yielded some magnificent elaborations, especially in the Baroque period. Geminiani's expansion of Corelli's original makes for infectious rhythmic interplay in this enervated rendition. (I last heard this piece live from the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin at the Library of Congress two years ago, a performance that was even more stunning in terms of virtuosity.) The other five concerti consist of a prelude and three or four dance movements of various types, with the most beautiful being the substantial no. 8, in E minor. Much of the delight comes from the lucid, rarefied solo playing of violinist Andrew Manze, whose slightly conservative pacing lent grace more than brio in many cases. As encore, Geminiani's D minor cello sonata (op. 5, no. 2) is a subtle dessert, featuring the group's current music director, Richard Egarr, at the harpsichord.
Harmonia Mundi HMU 907261.62