15 January 2016


Jazzer Geminiani
I listened to a programme of music by Geminiani. What a joy it was!

I previously knew Geminiani’s music only a little: I have a few scraps of it in CD anthologies of Baroque Music.

Francesco Geminiani, an Italian taught by both Scarlatti and Corelli, was a virtuoso on the violin as well as a composer. He worked a great deal outside Italy - in Paris, England and Ireland. He died in 1762 at the age of 74. Geminiani’s sonatas and concertos are full of melody – sometimes merry and playful, sometimes elegant and stately. They are ‘easy listening’ in the sense that there are simple melodic lines and the pieces comprise short movements – usually no more than three or four minutes each. His compositions were just the thing for background music in the Great Houses during the 18th Century.

As someone who tries to play traditional jazz, I like the counterpoint in Geminiani’s music and the frequent dialogue between two voices. Similarly, I find his music is jazzy in the sense that he was writing down – 400 years ago – just the sort of interplay between instruments that my friends and I are still trying to achieve in 2016. A particular point of interest was that Geminiani made good use of the viola, thereby helping to establish the String Quartet that was to become so important a musical form shortly after his death.

Two of the musicians featured in the recordings during the programme (on BBC Radio 3) were Micaela Comberti and Iona Brown. This reminded me both these great performers died a few years ago and both at relatively young ages. Checking the facts, I was surprised to find that Micaela Comberti died of cancer as long ago as 2003 at the age of just 50; Iona died the following year at the age of 63. What a sad loss.
Micaela Comberti
Iona Brown
We must be grateful that both ladies were extensively recorded in an age when the quality of sound recordings had reached such a high standard. If you like the jazzy Vivaldi and Baroque music generally (or even if you don’t!), may I recommend the works of Signor Geminiani to you? There is plenty of it on YouTube if you would care to try before buying.