London in the early 1700s offered a dazzling mix of virtually every European musical style. This bustling environment attracted both students of music (such as the young Swedish composer Roman) and established musicians, eager to make their mark – Handel and Geminiani being two of the brightest shining stars. But new influences did not only come from across the Channel. The recent union between England and Scotland led to an increased cultural exchange, and English audiences were entranced by the rhythms and colours of the traditional tunes of Scotland. Various collections, such as the settings by the recorder virtuoso Francesco Barsanti, were published and even Handel could not resist a few turns at the hornpipe in his Water Music. This state of affairs is reflected in the present mix of four baroque sonatas, by composers associated with London in various ways, and nine Scottish tunes in arrangements based on the Barsanti settings. This imaginative programme is characteristic of the approach adopted by Parnassus Avenue, an ensemble which is constantly challenging ‘baroque standards’: according to Parnassus Avenue there is no ‘early’ music, just a never-ending ‘now’. In lending a John Stanley Adagio the same melancholy expressivity as the mournful Waly waly, and applying the same virtuosity to the hypnotic Clout the Cauldron as to a Handel Allegro, Dan Laurin and his colleagues also demonstrate that there are no genres, only one seamless musical whole. Corelli & Co, the group’s previous CD on BIS, was hailed as ‘a truly inspirational disc for anyone who regards the baroque original as a starting point for individual expression’ in Early Music Review. Chances are that many will receive just as much inspiration from this new disc.
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