BARGAIN OF THE MONTH
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Sonatas for Cello and Piano (arr. Alfredo Piatti):
No. 1 in A major G13 [10:12]
No. 2 in C major G6 [12:31]
No. 3 in G major G5 [10:43]
No. 4 in E flat major G10 [10:48]
No. 5 in F major G1 [11:17]
No. 6 in A major G4 [12:14]
Fedor Amosov (cello); Jen-Ru Sun (piano)
rec. The Ballroom Studio, Lansing, Michigan, USA, 10-11 October 2008
NAXOS 8.572368 [67:46]
The days of Crystal Palace Messiahs and monster orchestras playing the Brandenburgs have long since gone, and an historically informed approach is expected of present day performers. Sometimes there seems even to be an element of competition as to who can produce the most outlandish performance based on previously unused evidence or theories. The present disc has gone in quite the opposite direction, and presents these Sonatas in the edition produced by the Italian cello virtuoso Alfredo Piatti (1822-1901) in the 1870s - in other words, the form in which they used most commonly to be heard until relatively recently
I started listening fully expecting to disapprove, but almost immediately I was won over by the sheer musicianship of both the arrangements and the performances. The Sonatas were originally published for cello and bass continuo. They have been recorded in that form using a variety of instruments – Naxos has an excellent version of some of them using fortepiano as continuo instrument - but always the two lines of the original published version are clearly audible as the basis of the performance. Piatti however did not stop at adding chords and occasional imitative lines to Boccherini’s bass. Certainly the published bass part is there, albeit sometimes in different octaves, with elaborations and sometimes simplification of the original, but in addition there is a whole host of imitations using the whole compass of the piano. The result is that whilst the cello remains dominant the two instruments are much more equal partners. In lesser hands this could have been a disaster, and indeed there are plenty of examples of nineteenth century editions of baroque and classical works which wholly change the character of the work, thickening the texture and obscuring the simpler lines of the original. That is not the case here. Piatti was certainly generous as well as extremely imaginative in what he gives the pianist to do, and he adds yet further difficulties to an already difficult cello part full of double stops and very high passages. This could sound hectic or over-busy, but as played here it is pure delight from beginning to end. Given that Piatti was encouraged by such composers as Liszt, Mendelssohn and Sullivan this should perhaps be no great surprise.
I had not heard of Fedor Amosov before. He studied with an array of fellow-Russian cellists, including Rostropovich, and has won several competitions. He plays with great panache, delicacy when that is called for, and has an enviable range of tone colours. Above all he is responsive to the sheer charm and melodious qualities of the music. The Taiwanese pianist Jen-Ru Sun was also previously unknown to me, but I am very pleased to have heard her here playing as an equal partner and making the most of the opportunities that Boccherini – and, even more, Piatti – provides. With a clear recording and good leaflet notes this has been for me an exceptionally and unexpectedly enjoyable disc which I hope will be tried even by those to whom historically informed performance is normally a sine qua non when choosing recordings.
This has been an exceptionally and unexpectedly enjoyable disc.