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Gaetano BONI (c.1686-after 1741)
Sonatas for Cello and basso continuo Op. 1 (1717)
No. 2 in C minor [8.39]; No. 3 in D major [6.44]; No. 9 in G
minor [7.07]; No. 1 in A major [6.50]; No. 11 in E minor [8.45];
No. 10 in C major [9.13]; No. 12 in D minor [7.05]; No. 8 in F major
Andrea Fossá (solo
cello); Anna Fontana (harpsichord); Francisco Gato (archlute); Andrea
de Carlo (viola da gamba); Renato Criscuolo (cello)
rec. 19-21 June 2006, Church of San Giovanni Battista,
You could be forgiven for thinking that
these expressive sonatas are by Corelli. You wouldn’t be
far off the mark as it was due to the great master that
Boni was poached from Bologna to Rome in 1711. However,
with Corelli dying just two years later they probably never
worked together. It is improbable that Corelli would have
created these pieces. They are, after all, sonatas for
cello: an unusual form for the time if not unique and they
pre-date Bach’s Sonatas.
Some movements - like the second from
the 11th Sonata - seem to be Corelli-inspired. However
their structure is such that they could not be by Corelli.
Corelli’s op. 5 Sonatas, for violin, tend to be multi-movement
pieces with a swift alternation of Allegro and Largo. Boni
never exceeds four movements there are no tempo changes
within movements and there is no repetitive ordering of
movements. The serious G minor Sonata begins Largo, then
comes an Allegro marked ‘Alla Francese’ then an even faster
Allegro. The following cheerful A major Sonata has four
movements: Andante, Allegro, Adagio and Allegro. Despite
the extra movement this Sonata works out to be an even
shorter work than the G minor largely because of its minuscule
‘Alla Francese’ appears six times in these
sonatas. Andrea Fossà in his booklet notes attempts an
explanation of the term: “It could be read both as purely
performance suggestion (notes inégalité or a particular
bow stroke) or simply to indicate a form that was in vogue
at the time, thus evoking in a generic sense a type of
movement or character”. I hope that’s clear!
Speaking of these notes they fail to give
Boni’s dates or much in the way of biography. There are
several rehearsal photographs what annotation there is
deals mainly with the music. Now that’s fine but very few
of us will know much about Pietro Boni. Even if you go
on Wikipedia you find almost nothing. Incidentally, the
booklet has a wonderful caricature etching of Boni on its
back page. He was also a composer of cantatas and opera
and having started in Bologna where he studied at the prestigious
Academia Filarmonica he moved to Rome. It was as a cellist
that he built his reputation and if these works are anything
to go by he must have been a virtuoso. Listen, if you can,
to the final Allegro of the second Sonata in C minor or
the Allegro of the D minor. It is however the expressive
and quite solemn Largo movements which stand out for me.
Somewhat curiously the works have been placed on the disc
in the order I have set out at the top: not numerically.
Five musicians have been involved in the
recording. The harpsichord which discreetly decorates its
line and the archlute play in each sonata. I find the sonatas
(1, 3, 10) accompanied by a continuo which uses another
cello a little too heavy in the bass department. That may
also be because the continuo is placed slightly too forward
in the overall stereo field.
There is no doubt however that Andrea
Fossá is the real star of the show. When not playing he
is teaching Early Music and baroque cello at the University
of Palermo and, indeed, editing Boni’s sonatas. Sadly I
can tell you nothing about the instruments being used here
except that I do not like the sound of Fossa’s instrument.
Nevertheless I would like to know more about it.
All in all, this disc is probably more
for the specialist than general baroque enthusiast. Even
so, it is full of attractive and often very beautiful music.
With the dissemination of new editions more cellists should
attempt to tackle these sonatas. We are most indebted to
Andrea Fossá in particular and to all of the performers,
as well as to Dynamic, for their work. Let’s wish the project
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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