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"Cello Rising"

Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann, cello; Karl Nyhlin, guitar; Björn Gäfvert, harpsichord

rec: June 2015, Danderyd (Stocksund), Petruskyrkan
BIS - 2214 (© 2016) (70'11")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

Giovanni Battist DEGLI ANTONII (1636?-1696): Ricercata X, op. 1,10 [1]; Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805): Sonata in A (G 4); Sonata in B flat (G 8); Joseph Bodin DE BOISMORTIER (1689-1755): Sonata II in G, op. 50,2 [5]; Domenico GABRIELLI (1659-1690): Sonata in G [2]; Domenico GALLI (1649-1697): Sonata III [3]; Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767): Sonata in D (TWV 41,D6) [4]

Sources: [1] Giovanni Battista degli Antonii, Ricercate sopra il violoncello, op. 1, 1687; [2] Domenico Gabrielli, Ricercari per violoncello solo, con un Canone e due violoncelli et alcuni Ricercari per violoncello e basso continuo , 1689; [3] Domenico Galli, Trattenimento Musicale sopra il violoncello a solo consecrato, 1691; [4] Georg Philipp Telemann, Der getreue Music-Meister, 1728/29; [5] Joseph Bodin de Boismortier, Six sonates dont la dernière est en trio pour les violoncelles, bassons ou violes avec la basse, op. 50, 1734

The cello made a relatively late appearance in the history of European music. Bass string instruments were used in the renaissance and in the course of the 17th century but these were either bass viols or instruments which were close to what we now know as the violone. The history of the cello as we know it begins in the last quarter of the 17th century in Italy. Bologna was the centre of cello playing and composing for the instrument. The names of Petro Franceschini Domenico Gabrielli and Giuseppe Maria Jacchini are closely connected to the earliest stages in the history of the cello.

Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann, a cellist of Japanese birth who now lives in Sweden, is a prominent exponent of the baroque cello who often plays with baroque orchestras and ensembles. The present disc seems to be her first solo recording and a very fine one it is. It sheds light on three different stages in the history of the cello which is reflected by the disc's title: "Cello rising".

The first three items are from the early stages of cello playing. These pieces were probably written for the composers' own performances or as study material, either for themselves or their pupils. Ms. Brinkmann writes in her liner-notes that these pieces were written for a cello which was much bigger than later cellos: "[The] fact that the top string is tuned to g gives a particular colour to the sound, especially when playing chords (as in Gabrielli’s Sonata). In the meantime, much of the earliest music for cello can be played with the left hand in a rather low position." Gallo is the only of the three who was not from Bologna; he was also active as a violin and cello maker.

The next two pieces document the growing popularity of the cello among amateurs. Both Telemann and Boismortier composed most of their chamber music for them. Telemann's Sonata in D is included in Der getreue Music-Meister, a series of periodicals with music which were published in 1728/29. It is notable that this is the only cello sonata from Telemann's pen. Even in later years - for instance his last large collection of chamber music, the Essercizii Musici of 1740 - he still composed regularly for the viola da gamba but hardly anything for the cello. This is certainly due to his general preference for the French rather than the Italian style. In France the Italian style enjoyed a growing popularity since the early decades of the 18th century. As a result the viola da gamba - the symbol of everything French - was gradually overshadowed by the Italian cello. That is reflected by the set of sonatas op. 50 by Boismortier. He composed a huge amount of music but mostly not idiomatic for a specific instrument. In the case of the op. 50 sonatas he was well aware that many amateurs still played the viola da gamba; therefore they can also be played on that instrument as well as the bassoon. However, it is telling that the title page mentions the cello first and the character of these sonatas clearly points in the direction of the cello.

The third phase of the cello is that of professionalism and increasing virtuosity. The cello was treated on an equal footing with the violin in the second half of the 18th century. In the first half of the century some composers had already written music for the cello which was quite demanding but nothing which can be compared to the sonatas by Luigi Boccherini. The cello was his only instrument and most of his music was written for his own use. His sonatas for cello and bc are technically very virtuosic, for instance in the exploration of the highest positions. The two sonatas included here are brilliant specimens of his art. In one particular passage in the Sonata in A the solo cello part goes so high that one must play on the bare string without the support of the fingerboard. Such sonatas were clearly beyond the capabilities of amateurs. The fact that six sonatas were published in London around 1770 - among them the Sonata in A - suggests that there must have been quite some professional cellists around who were eager to play music composed by someone else.

The recording of these sonatas by Boccherini deserves applause. This part of his oeuvre is still somewhat underrated. It is telling that in the article on Boccherini the analysis of his chamber music in New Grove is confined to the string quartets and quintets and completely ignores the cello sonatas. But the other items - with the exception of the Telemann sonata - are also little known. Therefore this disc is most welcome from the angle of repertoire. The performances are an equally strong argument for this disc. Ms. Brinkmann delivers technically impressive performances, especially in Boccherini's sonatas. The far less complicated pieces by Telemann and Boismortier come off just as well. Ms. Brinkmann shapes the lines beautifully and there is some good dynamic differentiation. In the earliest pieces her performances include some improvisational traits and that seems in line with the origin of these pieces.

This is definitely one of the best cello discs I have heard in recent years.

Johan van Veen (© 2016)

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