CHRISTOPHER HOGWOOD (1941-2014)

Conductor, Musicologist, Keyboard player

New Francesco Geminiani Volume

November 21, 2011

Ut Orpheus Edizioni have just released the latest volume in the Francesco Geminiani Opera Omnia series, Vol. 6, which contains 6 Concertos (Op.7) edited by Richard Maunder. With Christopher as General Editor, the project aims to publish the complete works of Francesco Geminiani.

 

gcvol6.jpgGeminiani’s third and last set of original concertos was published on 4 February 1748. The parts were handsomely produced, with an engraved frontispiece and a quotation from Horace. The concertos are dedicated to the Academy of Ancient Music. This was one of the leading London musical societies, founded on 1 March 1726 as the Academy of Vocal Music by a group of professional musicians – including Geminiani – and aristocratic amateurs: the society mounted regular concerts at the Crown and Anchor in the Strand. Geminiani’s statement that “in the composing of [the Opus 7 concertos] great Study and Application hath been used, to make them acceptable to the Public, and in particular to your Academy” is reminiscent of Gottlieb Muffat’s preface to his Componimenti Musicali per il Cembalo (Augsburg, c1738-1739), which says that the composition was “laborious” and cost “much effort”. Mozart’s dedication of his “Haydn” quartets, likewise, speaks of them as “the fruit of long and laborious effort”.

Opus 7 had something of a mixed reception. The most virulent criticism of Opus 7 came from Francesco Maria Veracini (1690-1768), who devoted over twenty pages of his unpublished treatise Il Trionfo della pratica Musicale, probably written in about 1760, to a very detailed analysis of what he calls a “Fuga Mostruosa” by one Sgranfione Miniacci, a not-quite-exact anagram of Francesco Geminiani. The fugue in question is the second movement of No. I, which the composer – perhaps unwisely – entitled “L’Arte della Fuga”.

In more recent times critical opinion has on the whole remained hostile. One of the few modern writers to praise Opus 7 unstintingly is Arthur Hutchings, who considered the set Geminiani’s “finest achievement”, and lamented that “one frequently hears some of the Op. 3 concertos, especially a rather dull one in D minor [No. IV], but none of the very good ones in Op. 7”. Whether Opus 7 is superior to the composer’s other works may be open to debate, but there can be no doubting the high level of originality and invention throughout all six concertos. The music is certainly quirky – even eccentric – at times, but it is unfailingly interesting, and there are many movements of outstanding refinement and beauty.

It is to be hoped that the present volume will allow Geminiani’s Opus 7 concertos to be judged afresh, free from the prejudices engendered by the rather ill-considered opinions of Hawkins and Burney.

 
 

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