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Italian cello sonatas

[I] "Il Violoncello del Cardinale"
Accademia Ottoboni
rec: Nov 2 - 7, 2016, Cori (LT, I)
Alpha - 368 (© 2017) (63'27")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

Filippo AMADEI (1690-1730): Sonata in d minor (WD 896/10); Pietro Giuseppe Gaetano BONI (1686-c1741): Sonata in C, op. 1,8; Sonata in a minor, op. 1,9; Giovanni BONONCINI (1670-1747): Sonata in a minor; Giovanni Battista COSTANZI (1704-1778): Sinfonia in D (WD 551); Nicola Francesco HAYM (1678-1729): Sonata No. 1 in a/e minor; Giovanni Lorenzo LULIER (1669-1700): Amor di che tu vuoi, cantata (aria in g minor, arr for two cellos and bc); Giuseppe Maria PERRONI (fl 1699-1737): Sonata No. 1 in A; Sonata No. 2 in D

Source: Pietro Giuseppe Gaetano Boni, Sonate per camera a violoncello e cembalo, op.1, 1717

Marco Ceccato, cello; Rebeca Ferri, cello [bc]; Francesco Romano, theorbo, guitar; Anna Fontana, harpsichord

[II] Salvatore LANZETTI (c1710-c1780): "Sonates a Violoncello solo e basso continuo"
Emmanuel Balssa, cello; Alix Verzier, cello [bc]; Bertrand Cuiller, harpsichord
rec: Jan 2004, Paris, Église de Saint Pierre
Lindoro - NL-3039 (R) (© 2018) (70'24")
Liner-notes: E/F/I
Cover, track-list & booklet

Sonata in a minor, op. 1,5; Sonata in a minor, op. 1,9; Sonata in F, op. 1,11; Sonata in B flat, op. 5,2 Sonata in D, op. 5,3; Sonata in C, op. 6,2

Sources: XII sonate a Violoncello solo e Basso continuo, op. 1, 1736; Sei Sonate a Violoncello, e Basso, op. 5, n.d.; Solos after an Easy & Elegant Taste, op. 6, c1760

The history of the cello is intriguing and complicated. One reason for the latter is that often one word was used to describe different instruments or, on the other hand, different words to describe the same instrument. The word violoncello was only started to be used in the third quarter of the 17th century, but at the same time the word violone continued to be used. Was this the same instrument? It was almost certainly not what today is called the violone. The name of the earliest composer in the programme recorded by Marco Ceccato already indicates the confusion. There is little doubt that Giovanni Lorenzo Lulier was a player of the cello, but his nickname was Giovannino del Violone.

The title of Ceccato's disc refers to the man who played a crucial role in Roman music life around 1700: Cardinal Ottoboni, one of the major patrons of musicians, alongside Cardinal Pamphili. All the composers represented in the programme were for some time in the service of Cardinal Ottoboni. Sometimes they moved from one to the other. That was the case with Lulier: from 1676 he was in the service of Cardinal Pamphili, but switched to Cardinal Ottoboni in 1688. He was also the cellist in the orchestra under the direction of Arcangelo Corelli, one of the main figures in Roman music life. The latter composed a sinfonia to Lulier's oratorio San Beatrice d'Este. Unfortunately no music for his own instrument from his pen has been preserved. In order to pay tribute to this important representative of the art of the cello, Ceccato decided to perform an aria from the cantata Amor di che tu vuoi, in an arrangement for two cellos and basso continuo.

After his death Lulier's position in Corelli's orchestra was taken by Filippo Amadei. It is telling that in his nick-name the word 'cello' turns up: Pippo del Violoncello. He settled in London in 1715, where he wrote an opera and contributed arias to an opera by Orlandini. Only two instrumental works are known, among them the Sonata in d minor. It comprises just two movements, both with the indication andante. It is part of the collection of Count Rudolf Franz Erwein von Schönborn, who was an avid player of the cello and collected large numbers of compositions for his instrument.

After his departure Amadei was succeeded by Pietro Giuseppe Gaetano Boni. The two sonatas included here are from a set of twelve, published as his Op. 1 in Rome in 1717. In 1719 he became a member of the of the Accademia Filarmonica in Bologna. The Sonata in C opens with an expressive largo. The ensuing allegro alla francese has the form of a corrente. This sonata has four movements, whereas the Sonata in g minor comes in three. Again the opening is an expressive largo.

Another immigrant was Nicola Francesco Haym, born in Rome into a German-Jewish family. He was educated as a cellist and in this capacity he played on an irregular basis at the court of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni in Rome. The Cardinal commissioned Haym's two only known oratorios which date from 1699 and 1700 respectively. Haym arrived in 1701 in London in the company of a violinist from Rome who had been invited to England by Wriothesley Russell, 2nd Duke of Bedford. Haym became the duke's master of chamber music. In 1703 and 1704 he published two sets of trio sonatas and a collection of chamber cantatas. He also wrote several librettos for operas by Handel, and became Secretary of the Royal Academy of Music. The Sonata in a/e minor has been preserved in manuscript and is not included in the work-list in New Grove. It has four movements, according to the model of Corelli's sonate da chiesa. The opening adagio includes double stopping; it has dramatic traits, as has the closing presto. Do we see here the effects of his experience in opera?

Another composer who spent a part of his career in London, was Giovanni Bononcini; he worked there, mostly in the opera business, from 1720 to 1732. He was educated as a cellist, and worked for Cardinal Ottoboni not only in this capacity, but also as a composer. The Sonata in a minor is taken from a collection of cello sonatas by various composers, published in London. It is in three movements; in the last movement the continuo cello takes an obbligato role.

Giuseppe Maria Perroni has no entry in New Grove, unlike his brother Giovanni. He is mentioned in the article as a violinist, but Ceccato states that he was a cellist and in this capacity in the service of Cardinal Ottoboni. He left two sonatas for cello and basso continuo in manuscript, both played here. They are in four movements. The Sonata in A includes a brilliant presto and closes with an exuberant allegro in an infectious dance rhythm.

The latest composer in the programme is Giovanni Battista Costanzi, who was born in Rome and worked there all his life as a cellist. He may have been a pupil of Giovanni Lorenzo Lulier. In 1721 Costanzi entered the service of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, who was also responsible for his being appointed maestro di cappella of several churches in Rome. He was also active as a teacher; one of his pupils was Luigi Boccherini. The latter is telling, as Costanzi was an important figure in the technical development of the cello, just like his pupil was going to be. It is not surprising that in the Sinfonia in D Costanzi explores higher positions than the other composers in their respective sonatas. It ends with two movements called amoroso; the first of these is especially nice.

In his performances Marco Ceccato perfectly brings across the characteristics of the various pieces. There is no lack of expression, the tempi are well chosen and the rhythmic pulse is immaculately conveyed, also thanks to the strong dynamic accents. The dramatic movements from Haym's sonata also take profit from that. His colleagues act at the same level. This is a most interesting and compelling disc, which is a substantial contribution to our knowledge of the development of the technique of cello playing and the music written for the instrument.

The second disc sheds light on the oeuvre of another brilliant cellist of a later generation. Salvatore Lanzetti was from Naples and received his musical education at the Conservatorio di S Maria di Loreto. In 1727 he entered the service of Vittorio Amedeo II in Turin. He held this post until his death, but had many opportunities to perform elsewhere. In the 1740s he lived in London, until at least 1754, and according to Charles Burney he played an important role in the popularization of the cello. He was a great innovator of cello technique, and his sonatas attest to that. In 2004 Emmanuel Balssa recorded a selection of sonatas from three collections; this has been reissued in 2018. Although a large part of Lanzetti's output is available on disc, this reissue is of great importance, as it delivers an interesting overview of the developments in his oeuvre and the various approaches to the playing of the cello.

Nearly all the sonatas on this disc - and that goes probably for most of Lanzetti's sonatas - comprise three movements. There is no fixed order: some open with a slow movement, which is followed by two fast movements, whereas others are in the order fast - slow - fast.

It is notable that the twelve sonatas op. 1 are divided into three parts, each comprising four sonatas. The first series is intended for amateurs, and these sonatas are technically not that demanding. Moreover, here Lanzetti stays in the lower register and only uses the bass clef. The second part is more complicated; here Lanzetti makes use of bass and tenor clef. The four remaining sonatas are virtuosic and intended for professional players, and written in four different clefs. Balssa selected one sonata from the second section and two from the third. The use of double stopping in the Sonata No. 5 in a minor attests to the more demanding nature of the second part of Op. 1. It opens with an adagio and closes with a menuet and trio. Double stopping also appears in the opening adagio of the Sonata No. 9 in a minor, alongside arpeggios. The closing movement is an andante, which has the character of an minuet, which Lanzetti combines with the rondeau. The Sonata No. 11 in F is one of the few in four movements, although the second, an adagio, is very short and little more than a bridge between the previous and the ensuing movements, both allegros. The latter has the form of a fugue. The sonata closes with a rondeau.

Lanzetti's Op. 5 was certainly not intended for amateurs, and this explains why it was never reprinted. "In Opus V, Lanzetti's further investigations into the technical possibilities of the instrument are represented through the use of artificial harmonics, an extremely advance technique for his time", according to Renato Criscuolo in his liner-notes. Balssa selected two sonatas from this set of six. The Sonata No. 2 in B flat opens with an allegro assai, which includes arpeggios which require difficult changes of string. The second movement includes a bow stroke, which is comparable to the portato (an "expressive re-articulation or pulsing of notes joined in a single bowstroke"; New Grove). The Sonata No. 3 in D opens with an adagio cantabile in 3/4. In the ensuing allegro the harmonics are notated. The sonata ends with a menuet, which is a theme with variations.

The Op. 6 is then clearly intended for amateurs. It was printed simultaneously in London and Paris, although the order of the sonatas is different. The title of the London edition is telling: "Solos after an Easy & Elegant Taste". It attests to the growing popularity of the cello among amateurs, to which Lanzetti had greatly contributed, as we have noted above. One of the most prominent amateur players of the cello was the Prince of Wales. The Sonata No. 2 in C is in three movements; the second and third are descriptive as the respective titles indicate: "Chasse" and "Fanfare". In the former the cello imitates the sound of horns, in the latter the fanfare signals of the trumpet through the use of chords and dotted rhythms.

This disc is an ideal introduction to the art of one of the major cellists of his time, and therefore the reissue of this disc of 2004 is fully justified. Emmanuel Balssa has made a representative choice from Lanzetti's oeuvre and delivers ideal interpretations. This is not merely a demonstration of the technical aspects of Lanzetti's playing. This is very fine music, and Balssa's performances attest to that. In Alix Verzier and Bertrand Cuiller he has found the ideal partners. The extensive and informative liner-notes are helpful to put these sonatas into their historical perspective.

Johan van Veen (© 2019)

Relevant links:

Accademia Ottoboni

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