Heavenly! Charles Avison
Looking at the what’s usually known as “classical music”, you might notice an oddity. One of the earliest composers we’d call Baroque was Lully, born in 1632, followed by Buxtehude in 1637, Pachelbel and Corelli in 1653, then in short order Purcell, Couperin, and the whole crowd from the 1670s and first half of the 1680s: Albinoni, Vivaldi, Telemann, Rameau, Bach, Handel, and Scarlatti. Then, with only a few minor exceptions (Gluck and CPE Bach in 1714), no one that’s noted much today until Haydn in 1732, a gap of almost fifty years.
I don’t know a good objective reason for that. When I listen to CPE Bach, who was quite famous in his day, it sounds fine but not special; not at deep and complex an his father, as epic as Handel, as sunny as Haydn, or as melodic as Mozart. It’s probably unfair to call that intervening period a dead era for music, but that’s how it feels.
So, after first hearing this thoroughly lovely piece on the radio, I was surprised to learn that it was written by Charles Avison, an English composer I’d never heard of, who lived in the middle of that dead period, 1709-1770. (This is also the time when native English classical music is usually considered moribund, with Handel’s stay as from 1713-1750 followed by J.C.Bach’s from 1762-1782 taking its place.)
He was apparently very conservative musically, with his models being Geminiani, Scarlatti, and Rameau. His best-known works today (not saying much, I confess) are a set of concerti grossi “after Scarlatti”, which includes the piece that prompted this post.