Geminiani: Concerti Grossi. The Academy of Ancient Music. Andrew Manze, director. (HMU, 2 CDs). Releasedto coincide with the Academy of Ancient Music's 16-city US tour—they performed at Benaroya Hall on November 14—these two discs substantiate Andrew Manze's reputation for revivifying the baroque repertoire. Serving both as concertmaster and associate director of the Academy, he and the original-instrument players attack and articulate notes with a clarity and force that make this music sound anything but ancient. Francesco Geminiani's (1687-1762) 12 Concerti Grossi are based on the 12 op. 5 sonatas for solo violin by his teacher, Archangelo Corelli. Geminiani published the first of his orchestral transformations of Corelli's works in 1726, the same year that the Academy of Ancient Music originated. Musicians of the time found Geminiani's compositions much easier to perform than Corelli's; this made them accessible to a public whose only chance of hearing them was through live performance.
Geminiani's immensely engaging music, wonderfully recorded, brings multiple rewards. There are no hidden meanings here, no arcane references, just energizing and uplifting works whose harmonies and instrumental color fall lightly on the ear. Especially outstanding is Follia, the 12th Concerto in D minor, in which Andrew Manze adds some astounding virtuosic flourishes. The discs also contain Corelli's Sonata for Violin and Cello, op. 5, no. 9, in an ornamented version by Geminiani, as well as Geminiani's own Cello Sonata in D minor, op. 5, no. 2.