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Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Cello Sonatas

Sonata in C major, G17 (with cello) (c.1772) [12:41]
Sonata in E flat major, G10 (with cello) (c.1764) [11:56]
Sonata in C minor, G2 (with bass) (c.1768) [13:13]
Sonata in A major, G4 (with cello) [14:19] (c.1773)
Sonata in B flat major G565 (with bass) [15:11]
Richard Lester (cello)
David Watkin (cello)
Chi-Chi Nwanoku (double bass)
rec. 31 January, 1-2 February 1994, All Saints Church, East Finchley, London. DDD

Hyperion has reached into their back catalogue to reissue this collection of five Boccherini cello sonatas on their Helios budget label. Recorded at the All Saints Church in London back in 1994 the eminent cellist Richard Lester is partnered here by cellist David Watkin and Chi-Chi Nwanoku on double bass.
Italian-born Luigi Boccherini was one of the most prolific classical composers of his time, a true cosmopolitan, having lived in many of Europe’s major cities, namely Milan, Madrid, London, Berlin and Amsterdam. In his day he was principally celebrated as a virtuoso cellist, although, he enjoyed a considerable reputation for his compositions, the vast majority of which were in the field of chamber music.
Boccherini’s artistic gift and pioneering talent are often overlooked as a throwback to the late-baroque period of the Italian school. In fact his compositional technique is entirely characteristic of his time. As an immediate contemporary of the great composers Haydn and Mozart, the artistic talent of this composer has unquestionably been overshadowed by their enduring popularity.
As a cellist of considerable repute a great deal of Boccherini’s cello parts are designed to exploit the technical resources of his beloved instrument. Not surprisingly the cello was the favoured solo instrument in many concertos, sonatas and particularly, in chamber music, including a remarkable series of works for string quintet with two cellos; the first of which is given a concertante part..
Boccherini published over ninety quintets for the combination of two violin, viola and two cellos; a scoring of which he seems to have been the originator. His cello sonatas, however, were not published in his lifetime not even appearing in the thematic catalogue that he personally kept from 1760 to his death in 1805. It is thought probable that he did not consider them worthy of publication as they were early works.
The cello sonatas comprise two parts with the description of ‘violoncello solo’ and ‘basso’. Boccherini was not specific about the type of accompaniment that was to be used and according to Richard Lester the word ‘basso’, “in this context seems to mean a second cello or a double bass rather than a continuo instrument.”
Although we are not provided with any specific descriptions the players use authentic instruments or period copies; with gut strings and period bows. The timbre of their instruments is first class with Lester’s cello containing a broad mellow tone. Lester does not adhere to historical performance practice preferring to allow more interpretative freedom. Lester accompanied by David Watkin and Chi-Chi Nwanoku are clearly at home in this music providing high expression with superb technique throughout and those additional ingredients of sincerity and integrity together with a well developed sense of style. On occasions the tempo changes did not uniformly convince and the volume of the accompaniment may prove too prominent for some.
The ecclesiastical acoustic of All Saints Church, East Finchley is the perfect choice for a recording venue. The players are closely caught with the advantage of crystal clear and well balanced sound. This is string playing of the highest calibre but in truth the music is best taken in bite-size chunks.
Michael Cookson


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