Nostalgia: Giovanni Battista Somis

Wolfram Schurig flauto, Johannes Hämmerle cembalo
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[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ne of the many Corelli students to grace the first half of the 18th century, Giovanni Battista Somis was a virtuoso violinist and a composer. Much praised for his expressive playing and an influential advocate of the violin, Somis was obviously also an accomplished composer with a distinctive voice. He composed mainly for his own instrument, and the present sonatas are selected from his opp. 3 and 4, published in 1725 and 1726, for violin solo with cello or harpsichord. They are performed here by Wolfram Schurig on a variety of sizes of recorder, and while it seems unlikely that Somis would have too enthusiastic about this liberty taken with his music – he wrote a Sinfonia for flauto, and clearly would have written more if he had wanted to – these performances work very well indeed. Schurig’s easy virtuosity on the recorder and Hämmerle’s wonderfully supportive harpsichord playing are a delight to listen to, and while we miss the double-stopping demanded in some of the pieces (and also the wonderful bow control for which Somis was widely admired), these performances are very persuasive indeed. While Schurig’s programme note is mostly devoted to largely spurious arguments for performing Somis’ violin music on recorders, it does make the relevant point that, of all the Corelli pupils, Somis is the one who most quickly and completely stepped out of his master’s shadow to produce music of genuine individuality and charm. I would have liked to have heard more about Somis’ long career, and am frankly baffled by the CD’s title and the cover illustration, a 1932 snap of Claudette Colbert!

D. James Ross




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