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Il Violoncello del Cardinale
Pietro Giuseppe Gaetano BONI (1686-c1741)
Sonata No. 1 in C major, Op. 1 No. 8 [10:09]
Filippo AMADEI (c1665-c1725)
Sonata in D minor, WD896/10 [5:10]
Nicola Francesco HAYM (1678-1729)
Sonata No. 1 in A minor/E minor [3:57]
Giuseppe Maria PERRONI (fl. 1699-1737)
Sonata No. 2 in D major [6:22]
Pietro Giuseppe Gaetano BONI
Sonata in G minor, Op. 1 No. 9 [7:25]
Giovanni Battista COSTANZI (1704-1778)
Sinfonia a violoncello solo in D major, WD551 [9:15]
Giuseppe Maria PERRONI
Sonata No. 1 in A major [5:59]
Giovanni BONONCINI (1670-1747)
Sonata in A minor [9:40]
Giovanni Lorenzo LULIER (c1662-1700)
Aria ‘Amor di che tu vuoi’ [transcribed for two cellos] [5:17]
Accademia Ottoboni (Marco Ceccato (cello & director); Rebeca Ferri (cello); Francesco Romano (theorbo & guitar); Anna Fontana (harpsichord))
rec. 2016, Cori, Italy
ALPHA CLASSICS 368 [63:27]

With the very notable exceptions of Corelli and Vivaldi, the period from the end of the 17th century to the beginning of the 18th century in Italy – i.e. the High Baroque in music – is mainly held in regard for its vocal music. This disc casts an interesting light on some of the instrumental music which was composed within the spheres of the influential Roman courts of Cardinals Benedetto Pamphili and Pietro Ottoboni – perhaps most famous for their patronage of the young Handel. Indeed some of the musicians on this disc are probably best known, if at all, for their connections with that composer rather than for any actual compositions of their own: Haym wrote the libretti for some of the operas of Handel’s Royal Academy in the 1720s; Amadei was principal cellist in that institution’s orchestra; and he and Bononcini each composed an act, in collaboration with Handel, for the opera Muzio Scevola in 1721, though Bononcini was otherwise a rival with Handel on London’s opera scene in that decade.

This recording focuses on music for cello by such composers, some of whom were virtuoso cellists, written at a slightly earlier period in the service of the aforementioned cardinals. The earliest work here, by Lulier, is in fact the (uncredited) arrangement of an aria for soprano and obbligato cello, as no original compositions for the instrument survive by him. In Marco Ceccato’s hands it becomes a convincing duet as the gently-played vocal melody is rendered in an idiomatic transcription that intertwines delectably with the original obbligato part.

Elsewhere Rebeca Ferri’s role on the subsidiary cello as part of the continuo is generally less obtrusive, alongside the harpsichord and theorbo, whilst Ceccato remains in the aural foreground, though the playful echoes by Ferri of the falling arpeggio figure in the cadential phrases of the second movement of Amadei’s Sonata are delightful. In its first movement it would perhaps have been welcome if the sustained notes of the continuo had come into greater prominence in order to weave more clearly with the spikier arpeggiated figures given to Ceccato, and therefore to make for a more telling and effective contrast between the two. Only in the virtuosic, but musically indifferent, figurations of the solo cello line in the Allegro second movement of Perroni’s Sonata No. 2 is Ceccato overtaken by the more vigorous harpsichord part.

Otherwise the selection of sonatas here gives Ceccato scope for an enticing variety of colours and textures. The effusive yearning of the slow movements in Boni’s two Sonatas – the G minor naturally eliciting darker introspection – and at the opening of Haym’s Sonata No. 1 are compelling, if at times a little dry, whilst his seamless and controlled legato for the faster movements is impressive, such as in the final gigue-like Allegro of Boni’s op. 1 no. 9, as well as the French-style dotted rhythms of the ‘Alla Francese’ movements in each of Boni’s sonatas, in addition to the persistently similar rhythm of the final movement of Bononcini’s example, which might have been so much less elegant in less expert hands.

Despite the more or less uniform textures and form of the works on this release – the sonatas tend towards the more old-fashioned four movement form, rather than the three which eventually came to dominate – Ceccato maintains an intelligent musical sensibility throughout. Lovers of Baroque music should find this unusual programme as pleasurable as it is stimulating and edifying.

Curtis Rogers

Previous review: David Barker



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