Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762)
Concerti grossi Op. III - Harpsichord transcriptions
In London during the second half of the 18th century, there was already an established local tradition of printed music containing keyboard reductions of concert repertoire. One such print was Geminiani’s, / Celebrated six Concertos, / as perform’d by M.r Cramer [...] at the / Antient Concert / [...] and at the / Hanover Square Concert. This tradition was strongly supported by the production and sales of pirated editions of chamber music by John Walsh and John Hare, among others. For a prospective client, the interest in this type of published product was twofold, and it is difficult to determine which of the two carried the greatest weight. Obviously, the nature of the repertoire proposed (generally the newest or most recent, or the most famous) was of primary importance, but one should not underestimate the connection between the music placed on sale and specific public events (though not necessarily the most recent) proposed in the city by great virtuosos. If it is true, in fact, that this type of reduction did not offer an actual photocopy of a performance, it was nonetheless appetizing for the mere fact that it presented the name of a noted and admired artist on the title page, and was therefore viewed as a guarantee of being the height of fashion musically in local circles. In the case of the version of Geminiani’s Concerti recorded here, we are dealing with compositions which were in fact already rather well-known to London audiences of the time, adapted for the keyboard by an anonymous tradesman and advertised by the publisher Goulding as equally performable on harpsichord, organ or piano. If, however, we consider the surviving copies of this print as vestiges of a merely commercial phenomenon, we miss the deep social and cultural roots of which these prints are a living testimony. Goulding’s actions had in fact required conscientious labor applied to a complex musical composition, which goes beyond the artistic weight which we might attribute to such a task. The catalyst of this commercial venture, moreover, was the success enjoyed in London by the celebrated violinist Wilhelm Cramer (1746-1799). A precocious prodigy born into a musical family, Cramer had studied under Stamiz, Basconi and Cannabich, and was already a member of the famous orchestra in Mannheim. Since 1772 he had been working in the British capital where, for approximately twenty years, he was judged to be one of the most brilliant violinists ever to have landed on English soil.