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"The Cello in Spain - Boccherini and other 18th-century virtuosi"

Josetxu Obregón, cello
La Ritirata

rec: Dec 2014, Madrid, Real Conservatorio de Música (Sala Tomás Luis de Victoria)
Glossa - GCD 923103 (© 2015) (57'14")
Liner-notes: E/D/F/S
Cover, track-list & booklet

anon: Adagio for cello and bc in e minor; Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805): Quintet for guitar, strings and castanets in D (G 448) (fandango)abgi; Sonata for cello and bc in C (G 6)cgh [1]; Jean-Pierre DUPORT (1741-1818): Sonata for cello and bc in D, op. 3,1ch [2]; Giuseppe Antonio PAGANELLI (1710-c1763): Sonata for cello and bc in a minorefh; Domingo PORRETTI (1709-1783): Concerto for cello with obbligati violins and double bass in Gabdfgh; Francesco Paolo SUPRIANO (1678-1753): Toccata I for cello solo in G; Pablo VIDAL (?-1807): Duetto-Andante for 2 cellosc [3]; José ZAYAS (?-1804): Última lección for cello and bc in B flatch

Sources: [1] Luigi Boccherini, Six Sonatas for the Violoncello, 1772; [2] Jean-Pierre Duport, Six sonates pour le violoncelle et basse, op. 3, 1773; [3] Pablo Vidal, Arte y escuela de violoncello, 1797 [ms]

Lina Tur Bonet, Miren Ziberio, violina; Daniel Lorenzo, violin, violab; Diana Vinagre, celloc; Michel Frechina, double bassd; Sara Águeda, harpe; Daniel Zapico, theorbof; Enrike Solinís, archlute, guitarg; Daniel Oyarzabal, harpsichord, organh; David Chupete, castanetsi

With the present disc the Spanish cellist Josetxu Obregón enters a new field: the role of the cello in 18th-century Spain. José Carlos Gosálvez, in his liner-notes, writes: "The history of the cello in the Spain of the 18th century is still waiting to be written and, for the time being, consists only of a history of individual personalities, pieces dispersed here and there, and unconfirmed hypotheses". One thing is for sure: Italians played a crucial role in the introduction and the dissemination of the cello in Spain. The track-list of the present disc confirms this: it includes only two pieces by home-grown composers. Obviously Luigi Boccherini takes an important place in the programme, but there is much more to be discovered. That is the main importance of this disc.

The cello had its origin in Italy and came in general use in the last quarter of the 17th century. One of the centres of cello playing and composing for the cello was Naples. The city was under Spanish rule and this explains why especially musicians from there came to Spain. Whereas in other countries the cello was played by professionals and amateurs alike, in Spain it was almost exclusively confined to professionals. As a result the amount of solo repertoire in Spain is rather limited. This disc includes some specimens from various genres: sonatas, a concerto and some pieces which were meant as instruction material.

Luigi Boccherini was certainly the most brilliant cellist of his time. He composed more than thirty cello sonatas and twelve cello concertos, although one of the latter is of dubious authenticity. Moreover he composed a large quantity of chamber music in which the cello played a major role, especially string quintets with two cello parts, one of which is virtuosic and almost certainly was meant to be played by himself. It has been assumed that Boccherini composed most of his oeuvre for the cello before his settlement in Spain in 1768, but Gosálves writes that "as our research progresses we are increasingly tending to think that a part of his cello output could have been written in Spain". The programme opens with the brilliant Sonata in C (G 6) for cello and bc in three movements, and closes with one of his most popular pieces, the Fandango from his Quintet in D (G 448) for guitar, strings and castanets.

Most of the composers who figure in the programme only temporarily lived and worked in Spain. The importance of Naples is reflected by the inclusion of a piece by Francesco Paolo Supriano who was the first musician to be documented as a regular player of the cello at the royal chapel in Naples. He was also the first who wrote a treatise on cello playing. The Toccata I is one of a set of twelve originally written for cello solo and later reworked as sonatas for cello and bc. The liner-notes indicate that he visited Spain, but not when and in what capacity. It is telling that he has no entry in New Grove, and that also goes for Domingo Porretti. He was also from Naples and became first cello of the Spanish court in 1734; he was a leading force in the Real Capilla under three monarchs. He died in 1783 in Madrid. Another composer who stayed in Spain was Giuseppe Antonio Paganelli who was from Padua. It seems unlikely that he was a cellist by profession. It has been suggested that he was a pupil of Tartini which would be an indication that he was a violinist. He made a career as an opera composer but also acted as harpsichordist. He travelled widely, but when exactly he came to Spain is not known. His activities there are also not clear; in some of his later publications of music he is called director of chamber music to the King of Spain, but this is not documented. The Sonata in a minor is his only piece for the cello.

One of the famous names in the history of the cello is Duport; however, it is mostly the music of Jean-Louis which is performed. The Sonata in D is from a set of six from the pen of his older brother Jean-Pierre who was a student of Martin Berteau. He performed at the Concert Spirituel in Paris, went to England and two years later settled in Spain. In 1773 he became cellist in the chapel of Frederick the Great in Berlin. The sonatas op. 3 were dedicated to the Duke of Alba. The latter was one of various aristocrats or monarchs who were avid players of the cello. Others were, for instance, Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales, and the Count of Schönborn-Wiesentheid whose collection of cello music is the largest of its kind.

The programme includes only a couple of pieces by home-grown composers. One of them is Pablo Vidal who started his career as cellist in the opera companies of Barcelona. He later was in the service of the Dukes of Osana where he worked under the direction of Boccherini. He is the author of the first two manuals for playing the cello in Spain. One of these includes the Duetto-Andante for two cellos. He failed to become cellist of the Real Capilla; that post was taken by José Zayas. Apparently nothing is known about him; the Última lección in B flat is the only piece known from his pen.

The history of the cello in Spain has still to be written, according to José Carlos Gosálvez. It is telling that most composers who appear on this disc's programme, have no entry in New Grove. There is still much work to do, and there is really no excuse for performers to turn to the same music over and over again. Josetxu Obregón is a musician of the curious kind who likes to explore new ground. This disc is of great importance as it is the first attempt to document a part of music history which is still largely in the dark. I hope that the research bears fruit and results in more interesting recordings of music for cello written or performed in Spain. Obregón is a brilliant performer. Listen to the first track, the opening of the Sonata in C by Boccherini and you know what to expect. Technically the playing is superb and Obregón and his colleagues play with aplomb in the extraverted pieces but also with refinement in the more intimate items, such as the slow movement of the same sonata. Another highlight is the Concerto in G by Porretti.

Johan van Veen (© 2016)

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