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Cecilia & Sol: Dolce Duello
Antonio CALDARA (1670-1736)
Nitocri: Fortuna e Speranza (1722) [10:05]
Gianguir: Tanto e con sì gran pena (1724) [6:28]
Tomaso ALBINONI (1671-1750)
Il nascimento dell'Aurora:Aure andate e baciate (c.1720) [3:23]
Domenico GABRIELLI (1659-1690)
San Sigismondo, re di Borgogna: Aure voi de' miei sospiri (1687) [6:44]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Tito Manlio: Di verde ulivo, RV 738 (1719) [5:22]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Ode for Saint Cecilia's Day, HWV76: What Passion Cannot Music Raise and Quell (1739) [7:35]
Arianna in Creta: Son qual stanco Pellegrino (1734) [9:23]
Nicola PORPORA (1686-1768)
Gli orti esperidi: Giusto Amor tu che m'accendi (1721) [5:30]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Cello Concerto in D Major Op. 34 (c.1782) [22:16]
Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo soprano)
Sol Gabetta (cello)
Cappella Gabetta/Andrés Gabetta
rec. 2017, Evangelisch-reformierte Kirchgemeinde, Zurich-Oberstrass
Texts and translations included
DECCA 4832473 [76:46]

The presentation could hardly be more kitsch, the book format positively shrieking with roses, parasols and gelato – but don’t be fooled. Behind the Sister Act, all dolce and dolcetti, lies some serious scholarship, delectable performances and the small matter of three world premiere recordings.

So, yes, Sol Gabetta’s red dress may be by Vivienne Westwood and Cecilia Bartoli’s hair may be done up to a T by Billi Currie but lend an ear to these Baroque arias with their important role for cello, and you’ll soon be transported to a more purely musical plane. It amused me, however, to read that whilst Gabetta plays a 1759 Guadagnini, with gut strings and a Baroque bow, this is not the cello, or bow, in the photo shoot.

It was canny to open with an expansive aria by Caldara, heard in its first ever recording; Fortuna e speranza from Nitocri. Gabetta opens this eloquently and there is some surprisingly ripe orchestral support from the accompanying band, Cappella Gabetta which is directed and led from the violin by the cellist’s brother, Andrés. The aria’s contradictory emotions, and its expressive breadth, are conveyed with exemplary control, Bartoli’s command of dynamics imperious even when the music is at its most virtuosic. Albinoni is represented by one aria from his opera Il Nascimento dell’aurora and it’s a stunning aria di bravura, packed with rapid divisions.

The earliest example is Gabrielli’s Aure voi from San Sigismondo written in 1687. It’s notable how adeptly delineated are the solo contributions not only of the cello but theorbo and violin as they emerge from the orchestral texture, the voice receding to an echo. Vivaldi ensures an equal distribution between voice and cello in the aria from Tito Manlio, staged at Mantua in 1719; here Bartoli’s coloratura is at its freshest and Gabetta’s flighty, airy cello playing complements it beautifully – though perhaps the cello spectrum is just a touch less focused here than it might be. The most well-known piece is Handel’s What passion cannot Music raise and quell from the Ode for St Cecilia’s Day and it’s excellently accomplished, without overstatement. The beautiful sicilienne that is Son qual stanco Pellegrino from Handel’s Arianna in Creta is played with ravishingly beautiful warmth.

One of the most intriguingly laid-out pieces is another world première – Caldara (again) and his aria from Gianguir, Imperatore del Mogol where we have, in effect, a scena for cello which is joined by solo violin. Porpora’s Giusto Amor tu che m'accendi from his Neapolitan opera of 1721
Gli orti esperidi is the final première recording and it enshrines music that is typically elegant and one moreover that pays equal distribution between voice and cello. To end Gabetta plays Boccherini’s Cello Concerto No.10 in D major with its beautiful aria-like central movement. Possibly an incongruous end, or maybe a decorous tip of the head from Bartoli to her celllistic sister, this nevertheless makes an engaging envoi.

Skies may ever be blue in the land of Cecilia and Sol, but the musical virtues of this disc are rock solid and utterly captivating.

Jonathan Woolf



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