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Domenico GABRIELLI (c.1659-1690)
Canon for two cellos in D major [2.02]
7 Ricercari for solo cello [34:19]
3 Sonatas for cello and basso continuo [20:09] Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725)
3 Sonatas for cello and basso continuo [18:09]
Guadalupe Lúpez Iñiguez (baroque cello)
Marrku Luolajan-Mikkola (baroque cello)
Olli Hyyrynen (baroque guitar and archlute)
Lauri Honkavirta (harpsichord)
rec. Chapel of St Lawrence, Vantaa, Finland, 2017
Reviewed in surround ALBA ABCD412 SACD [74:54]
It should be made clear at the start that this really is music by Domenico Gabrielli and Alessandro Scarlatti, not their more familiar namesakes! Whilst Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti are related, the Gabriellis are spelled differently - Giovanni the composer (1557-1612) is "Gabrieli". To confuse the issue, Giovanni the builder of cellos (c.1740-1770) is spelled like Domenico Gabrielli, to whom he does not appear to be related.
It is not just the rarely recorded composers, but also the music being performed and the way it is performed, that make this absorbing disc worth the time and money of any serious collector of the by-ways of the baroque. The presentation of the SACD, beautiful flowers, beautifully posed cellist, says celebrity marketing to me. But I had not come across Ms López Iñiguez or her Finnish colleagues before and the astonishingly erudite notes in English, Finnish and Spanish, as well as the playing, give the lie to any impression that this was directed by the marketing manager rather than the musicians.
Domenico Gabrielli was a cello virtuoso and composer of opera and church music. The small number of solo cello pieces he wrote are all here on this disc. Some of the Ricercari are quite substantial, the seventh lasting over six minutes, as long as some of the bigger movements in J.S. Bach's famous suites. Guadalupe López Iñiguez comments that they each pose different technical challenges made more so by their improvisatory character. She sees them as representing the birth of the solo cello repertoire which was further developed by 'such as Galli, Vitali, Colombi, degli Antonii and later Bach...' She then launches into a discussion of the appropriate pitch for Gabrielli (464Hz) and Scarlatti (440Hz). As noted above, these are no throw away notes to fill the generous space of this elegant booklet. They need repeated reading. Alessandro Scarlatti is much better known as a composer of opera, church music, concertos and countless chamber works. His vocal music is possibly more interesting but these cello sonatas contain much to charm the attentive listener. It has been said that he is somewhat antiquated in this repertoire but one suspects that is in comparison to his famous son Domenico whose contribution to solo keyboard music is little short of astonishing in its range as well as quantity. Alessandro wrote less but was no minor figure in the early baroque.
So what of the music from a listening perspective? It is possible to treat the SACD as a concert because it has been arranged like a recital with the works of the composers mixed and nothing given in publication order. My listing above is for the convenience of cataloguing and does not reflect the playing sequence at all. The Ricercari are spread throughout with the 7th played first and the 5th last, likewise the Scarlatti sonatas are not in order. With so much that is unknown to most of us, it is a rather hypnotic experience to be faced with 32 tracks of new music in such an archaic style. Both composers, aided and abetted by the remarkable soloist, lead the ear in unexpected ways and the occasional dance movement comes as a happy relaxation. The very last item, the finale movement of Scarlatti's 1st sonata, is just such a cheerful 43 seconds of dance. It leaves one feeling well satisfied and certainly encourages repeated listening. I am sure neither composer can possibly have considered the likelihood of anyone just listening to any of this rather than playing it, let alone that one would be still being interested some three centuries after they composed their works. The attachment of the modern listener to loosely defined 'art music', that they mostly cannot play, would seem bizarre to these early craftsmen.