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Charles Avison

February 16, 1709 - May 9, 1770
born in Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, composed during the Baroque period
Charles Avison was an important English composer and musician of the last half of the eighteenth century. His father, Richard Avison, was a town musician in Newcastle who probably taught him at home. With the help of Ralph Jenison, a wealthy arts patron who was also a member of Parliament, and other wealthy men, Avison was able to continue his musical studies. There are contemporary accounts saying that he studied with Geminiani when that composer was in England. However, there is no solid basis for claims that he studied on the Continent.

The first documentation of his musical career was a benefit concert he gave in London at Hickford's Room on March 20, 1734. On June 1, 1736, he took up a position as organist of St. John's Church in Newcastle, which had just had an organ installed. Legend has it that he turned down job offers from London, Dublin, York, and Edinburgh in its favor. In October he accepted another position, at St. Nicholas Church (now Cathedral) and retained that position until his death.

He remained active in secular music. Taking a lead from the success of a subscription concert series in London, he started a similar enterprise in Newcastle in 1735. It was successful, and he received a formal appointment as its musical director in 1738. In 1737, he married Catherine Reynolds. Only three of their nine children survived to adulthood. Both surviving sons were also professional musicians, one of them succeeding him as organist at St. Nicholas.

He spread his musical activities more widely, initiating another successful set of subscription concerts, this time in Durham. In addition to his church activities and concert series, he also gave theatrical performances in both Durham and Newcastle. In addition, he took on students, teaching harpsichord, violin, and flute.

Avison is also known as an essayist on music. His set of Concertos, Op. 3 contained a lengthy preface on performing practice. He expanded on this in a book, An Essay on Musical Expression, which is also the first book of music criticism published in English. Of its three main parts, the first discuss the effect of music on emotion and character. The second is a systematic discussion and critique of certain composers and their styles. Part three is a systematic discussion of instrumental performing practice. The second edition of the book also contained a section on "music of the ancients" and a lengthy response to a book-length criticism of the original version. The book, which was so well-regarded that it was translated into German, was actually a joint work by a "junto," the other members of which declined to be identified. It remains a highly valued look into musical life and opinion and proper performance of music of the time.

Avison wrote 60 string concerto grossi, plus 12 more that are arrangements of harpsichord sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti. He also wrote concertos for organ or harpsichord, but many of these are arrangements of the string concertos or music of other composers, and they follow the example of Geminiani. His melodies are particularly pleasing and easy to remember and follow, but they are not particularly deep in content. He also wrote an amount of chamber music, including sonatas, which he seems initially to have modeled on Rameau's music. Especially good examples are his keyboard sonatas with accompaniment from other instruments, primarily two violins and cellos, which primarily add only supporting harmonies. He wrote little sacred music and only three such works survive, in addition to a portion of an oratorio that he wrote with several other composers. ~ Joseph Stevenson, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Charles Avison: 12 Concerti Grossi

Disc 1
Title: Concerto Grosso No. 1 In A Major (After Scarlatti)
Title: Concerto Grosso No. 2 In G Major (After Scarlatti)
Title: Concerto Grosso No. 3 In D Minor (After Scarlatti)
Title: Concerto Grosso No. 4 In A Minor (After Scarlatti)
Title: Concerto Grosso No. 5 In D Minor (After Scarlatti)
Title: Concerto Grosso No. 6 In D Major (After Scarlatti)
Disc 2
Title: Concerto Grosso No. 7 In G Minor (After Scarlatti)
Title: Concerto Grosso No. 8 In E Minor (After Scarlatti)
Title: Concerto Grosso No. 9 In C Major (After Scarlatti)
Title: Concerto Grosso No. 10 In D Major (After Scarlatti)
Title: Concerto Grosso No. 11 In G Major (After Scarlatti)
Title: Concerto Grosso No. 12 In D Major (After Scarlatti)
x

Track List: Charles Avison: Six Concertos, Op. 3; Eight Concertos, Op. 4

Disc 1
Title: Concerto For Violin & Chamber Orchestra In B Flat Major, Op. 3/4
Title: Concerto For Violin & Chamber Orchestra In G Minor, Op. 3/3
Title: Concerto For Violin & Chamber Orchestra In D Major, Op. 3/1
Title: Concerto For Violin & Chamber Orchestra In E Minor, Op. 3/2
Title: Concerto For Violin & Chamber Orchestra In In D Major, Op. 3/5
Title: Concerto For Violin & Chamber Orchestra In G Major, Op. 3/6
Disc 2
Title: Concerto For Violin & Chamber Orchestra In D Minor, Op. 4/1
Title: Concerto For Violin & Chamber Orchestra In A Major, Op. 4/2
Title: Concerto For Violin & Chamber Orchestra In D Major, Op. 4/3
Title: Concerto For Violin & Chamber Orchestra In G Minor, Op. 4/4
Title: Concerto For Violin & Chamber Orchestra In B Flat Major, Op. 4/5
Title: Concerto For Violin & Chamber Orchestra In G Major, Op. 4/6
Title: Concerto For Violin & Chamber Orchestra In D Major, Op. 4/7
Title: Concerto For Violin & Chamber Orchestra In C Minor, Op. 4/8
x

Track List: Charles Avison: Twelve Concertos, Op. 6

Disc 1
Title: Concerto No. 1 In G Minor, Op. 6/1
Title: Concerto No. 2 In B Flat Major, Op. 6/2
Title: Concerto No. 3 In E Minor, Op. 6/3
Title: Concerto No. 4 In D Major, Op. 6/4
Title: Concerto No. 5 In B Flat Major, Op. 6/5
Title: Concerto Grosso No. 6 In D Major (After Scarlatti)
Title: Concerto No. 6 In D Major, Op. 6/6
Title: Concerto Grosso No. 6 In D Major (After Scarlatti)
Title: Concerto No. 6 In D Major, Op. 6/6
Disc 2
Title: Concerto No. 7 In G Major, Op. 6/7
Title: Concerto No. 8 In E Minor, Op. 6/8
Title: Concerto No. 9 In D Major, Op. 6/9
Title: Concerto No. 10 In C Major, Op. 6/10
Title: Concerto No. 11 In G Minor, Op. 6/11
Title: Concerto No. 12 In A Major, Op. 6/12

Comments

Elegant music that reminds me of a combination of Handel and Telemann.
erfortunato6
Looking back at comments as long as two years ago, why is there always someone in the audience ready to attack someone else's honest impressions of some beautiful music?
erfortunato6
Music, such as Avison's, he might have well written, transcends the ages, and speaks to our many senses and emotions. What great work!
jcm1945
Yes, I love it also.
boogabooga73
The Avison is lovely.
boogabooga73
Joekiron-- your comment is pathetic.
No mention of J S Bach. Now I suppose he was not influenced by the Man. You English need to be taught class. It was classless of the English to have destroyed Dresden and destroyed an entire library of J S Bach.
spa_femme
Agreed, einlaw3. Avison is my favorite Baroque musician.
einlaw3
I have enjoyed Classical music for over 30 years, and the works of Charles Avison's has been and continues to be among the most pleasing sounds of the Baroque genre! It is a clean and well organized body of music that has the ability to instantly return the mind to a state of peace and wellness anytime of day. Avison's works are not particularly specific like, for example, Handel's Hallelujah Chorus; it is just simply that go-to music that uplifts the energy around you. It has for me!
Hi!~

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