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Francesco Maria ZUCCARI (c1694 - 1788): "Cello Sonatas"

Mvsica Perdvta

rec: May 31 - June 3, 2010, Rome, Oratorio P.P. Barnabiti
Brilliant Classics - 94306 ( 2012) (64'24")
Liner-notes: E/I
Cover & track-list

Sonata No. 1 in Dadef; Sonata No. 2 in B flataceg; Sonata No. 3 in Gaeg; Sonata No. 4 in a minorbdef; Sonata No. 6 in Cbce; Sonata No. 8 in d minoradef

Renato Criscuolo, celloa, cello piccolob; Luca Marzetti, violonec, double bassd; Michele Carreca, theorboe; Alberto Bagnai, harpsichordf, organg

"Mvsica Perdvta is a cultural association founded in 2007 by Renato Criscuolo and Valerio Losito dedicated to research, in libraries and archives, of unheard and less well-known music as well as music by eminent writers and composers working in the 17th and 18th centuries, who, despite their considerable talent and expertise, have not been judged fairly by musical history and deserve to be reassessed". Thus we read in the booklet. This ambition cannot be appreciated highly enough. Over the years I have often heard discs with music which made me wonder why it had never been performed and recorded before. The truth is that we only know the tip of the iceberg, and that there is a large repertoire waiting to be discovered. The effect of the efforts of Mvsica Perdvta is the present disc with six sonatas for cello and basso continuo from the 18th century which are attributed to Francesco Maria Zuccari.

It has to be put that way because it is impossible to establish with any certainty that they have been written by Zuccari. In New Grove one finds an entry for a certain Carlo Zuccari, but he seems not to be related to Francesco Maria. The information in the booklet about him was provided by professor Maria Nevilla Massaro at a conference devoted to the manuscript from which the sonatas are taken. Zuccaro was probably born in Dosolo, in the province of Mantua, around 1694. In 1718 he was organist of the basilica of Assissi, also acting as choirmaster between 1725 and 1727. In that year he moved to Rome where he entered the service of the Basilica dei XII Apostoli. In 1741 he became first organist in Padua, and in 1749 he returned to Assisi to become choirmaster. He took with him all the music he had written in Padua, and as a result the largest part of his oeuvre - more than 400 mostly sacred compositions - are kept in the archives of Assissi.

The sonatas on this disc are from a manuscript which includes ten sonatas and are in Zuccari's handwriting. The question which hasn't been answered as yet is whether he was the composer or merely the copyist. There is no doubt that he was a highly-skilled cellist, as show the Esercizi per il violoncello which are signed by him and date from 1760. It is suggested that the sonatas may have been written or copied for the famous cellist Antonio Vandini (c1690-1778) from Bologna, who visited Assissi on his way to Rome in October 1750.

These sonatas are specimens of the baroque style, and are modelled after the Corellian sonata da chiesa. They are all in four movements, slow-fast-slow-fast, with the exception of the second sonata which is in three (although the second movement is in two contrasting sections: moderato - allegro). The first movements are called preludio with an additional tempo marking. If one listens to these sonatas one is tempted to compare them with those by the likes of Vivaldi and Geminiani. They are quite original, though, and can easily hold their ground. I particullarly liked the sonatas 6 and 8.

For the performance the artists have decided to use various combinations of instruments in the basso continuo section. It is notable that a violone or a double bass is used as string bass rather than a second cello. One interesting aspect is not mentioned in the booklet. If the sonatas were indeed written or copied for Vandini, should they be played with the bow in an underhand grip, like the viola da gamba? That is the way Vandini played the cello. Whatever, Renato Criscuolo provides very good performances, with an effective differentation between the notes which make the various rhythms come off perfectly. His colleagues are his equals in their realisation of the basso continuo.

The exploration of the manuscript with these sonatas was well worth the effort. These sonatas are nice to listen to, and the artists turn out to be eloquent advocates. I hope to hear more interesting discoveries from this ensemble in the future.

Johan van Veen ( 2012)

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