As with the Red Priest’s violin works, string players looking for a well-researched and appealingly constructed set of the Cello Concertos have quite a wide range from which to choose. Cellist Sol Gabetta has constructed just such a recital and performs it with her own Cappella, which is directed from the first violin by Andreas Gabetta, though those fearing an all-Gabetta line-up will remain disappointed. The Cappella is 6-1-1(and one cello continuo)-1, with harpsichord/organ and theorbo/baroque guitar. There are no other string-playing Gabettas around.
Gabetta is a charismatic player with a number of well-regarded discs to her name. She plays here with technical adroitness and a clear, springy approach predicated on legato and a warmly textured vibrato. One abiding feature of her playing, and it’s as well to discuss this first, is her approach to melodic lines. Her approach is very often to engage in rather disruptive rubati. This allows her to spin a delightfully sustained series of expressive gestures, though at the cost of forward momentum. Her approach is at least consistent though it is also, therefore, predictable. Your own response may well be more sympathetic than my own; I feel that a less dramatic slowing would have allowed room for the expressive expansion of certain passages, whilst not necessitating the kind of metrical break that is occasioned by it.
Elsewhere she attends to the poised melancholy of the B flat major, enjoys pointing up some dissonant turns of phrase in the opening movement of the G minor – though possibly a bit too much – and catches the taut bowing possibilities inherent in the finale of the same work. I like the organ accompaniment in the A minor Concerto and the cello’s nobly musing playing of the Adagio. The Cello Sonata in G minor is notable for a metrically bracing - and very Gabetta – Sarabanda, full of speedings up and down.
There are also two interesting additions to the programme. Leonardo Leo is well known as a composer for the cello. His D major work is, to my ears, more of a suite than a concerto, but Gabetta and her group excavate some lovely colours from its five movements and well crafted fugal finale. More interestingly still we have the first ever recording of Giovanni Benedetto Platti’s D minor Concerto. A generation younger than Vivaldi, and an almost exact contemporary of Leo, Platti’s work is a lyrically persuasive one, and also enshrines some fugal activity in its finale. The three movements are finely turned, and the craft, and skill, undeniable. This appealing work should certainly be taken up by ambitious cellists, keen to expand their repertoires.
The recital has been well recorded, with continuo instruments judged nicely in the balance, and not too prominently. Interpretatively, however, things may well hinge on reactions to Gabetta’s expansive rubati.