Francesco Maria ZUCCARI (1694-1788)
Cello Sonata no.1 in D [11:25]
Cello Sonata no.2 in B flat [8:23]
Cello Sonata no.3 in G [8:39]
Cello Sonata no.4 in A minor* [11:34]
Cello Sonata no.6 in C* [12:51]
Cello Sonata no.8 in D minor [11:05]
Musica Perduta (Renato Criscuolo (baroque cello, *5-string cello); Luca Marzetti (G violone, baroque double bass); Michele Carreca (theorbo); Alberto Bagnai (harpsichord and organ))
rec. Oratorio dei Padri Barnabiti, Rome, 31 May - 3 June 2010. DDD

Despite the name emblazoned on the CD cover, there is some doubt over the authorship of the six Cello Sonatas presented here in their premiere recordings. The performers, Musica Perduta - literally 'Lost Music' and usually styled 'Mvsica Perdvta' - is an Italian early music ensemble. The Sonatas were part of a group of ten uncovered by Musica Perduta in an anonymous 18th-century manuscript at the Sacred Convent library in Assisi, Italy. Following research, Musica Perduta felt confident in attributing them to Zuccari. He was one-time organist and choirmaster at Assisi and author of many other works kept there, overwhelmingly sacred but including a series of Esercizi per il Violoncello. As yet, however, there remains the possibility that Zuccari was copyist rather than composer.
Musica Perduta is more than a chamber ensemble. In the booklet this collective of baroque specialists is described variously as a "research group" and a "cultural association". It was founded by soloist Renato Criscuolo with Valerio Losito in 2007. It is "engaged in research [...] of unpublished or unknown musical works of distinguished authors and composers, primarily of the 17th and 18th centuries who [...] deserve to be re-valued." Musica Perduta subsequently perform such re-discovered works and, as here, record them for posterity.
These are then historically authentic performances by Musica Perduta. This can be heard from their superb-sounding period instruments (originals, restorations or reproductions) to their sensitive and detailed observance of technique - which is, however, never mannered. The different textures provided by the thoughtfully varied basso continuo - whether violone, theorbo, double bass, harpsichord or organ - add subtle yet rich colours and depth to what is already imaginative solo writing. Cheerfully melodic, luxuriating often in its own unpretentious virtuosity, Zuccari's music is reminiscent at times of Vivaldi, but not as a second-rate imitator. The Sonatas more or less follow the same Corellian sonata da chiesa model, four movements of a slow-fast-slow-fast pattern, with most material in the second. 

Sound quality is very good indeed. These days, Brilliant's engineers reliably outperform those of so many bigger labels by some distance. Criscuolo's breathing is unnecessarily noisy at times, but hardly a major annoyance. The unattributed Italian-English booklet notes are fairly brief but informative, if sometimes tautological. The English translation is not by any means perfect, but it would be churlish to dwell on it in what is, from composer to ensemble to audio to price, an all but exemplary product.  


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From composer to ensemble to audio to price, an all but exemplary product.