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Cello sonatas from the 18th century

[I] Francis CAPORALE & Johann Ernst GALLIARD: "Sonatas - A tribute to G.F. Handel"
Kristin von der Goltz, cello; Andreas Küppers, harpsichorda, lute harpsichordb, organc
rec: Sept 16 - 19, 2013, Schlosskirche Goseck
Raumklang - RK 3302 (© 2015) (67'47")
Liner-notes: E/F/D
Cover & track-list
Scores Galliard, Sonatas for bassoon or cello

Francis [Andrea] CAPORALE (c1700-1745/46): Sonata I in Aa [2]; Sonata II in B flatc [2]; Sonata IV in d minorb [2]; Sonata VI in Gb [2]; John Ernest GALLIARD (1666?-1747): Sonata I in Db [2]; Sonata I in a minora [1]; Sonata IV in e minorc [1]; Sonata IV in Gc [2]; Sonata V in d minorb [1]; Alexis MAGITO (1711-1773): Grave

Sources: [1] John Ernest Galliard, Six Sonatas for the Bassoon or Violoncello, 1733; [2] Francis Caporale, John Ernest Galliard, XII Solos … VI of Sigr Caporale VI compos'd by Mr Galliard, 1746

[II] Luigi BOCCHERINI, Giovanni Battista CIRRI: "Cello Sonatas"
Catherine Jones, cello; Alison McGillivray, cello [bc]; William Carter, archlutea, guitarb; Giulia Nuti, harpsichord
rec: Nov 12 - 14, 2013, Lonigo, Villa San Fermo
deutsche harmonia mundi - 88875013182 (© 2014) (77'49")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover, track-list & booklet
Scores Boccherini
Scores Cirri

Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805): Sonata in C (G 2)b; Sonata in A (G 4)b; Sonata in A (G 13)b; Giovanni Battista CIRRI (1724-1808): Sonata in F, op. 15,3a; Sonata in A, op. 15,4a; Sonata in g minor, op. 15,5a

Sources: Luigi Boccherini, Six Sonatas for the Violoncello, 1772; Giovanni Battista Cirri, Six Solos for the Violoncello and a Bass, op. 15, [n.d.] (c1775)

The four composers who are represented on the two discs to be reviewed here belong to different generations. Most of them are also largely unknown; Luigi Boccherini is the exception, although it would be an exaggeration to say that his music is part of the standard repertoire of today's early music ensembles. Three of the composers were professional cellists; here the exception is Johann Ernst (or John Ernest) Galliard. Whatever the differences, the interesting thing is that all the music played on these two discs was published in England. That doesn't so much bear witness to a particular popularity of the cello in England, but rather to London's leading position as a music printing centre.

Caporale is generally known with his Christian name Andrea, but that was given to him by the musicologist François-Joseph Fétis in his Biographie universelle des musiciens of 1868. In his will, dated 1745, Caporale calls himself Francis, the Anglicized form of his real name, Francisco. We know very little about him; in New Grove not even the years of his birth and death are given. The booklet to the Raumklang disc has his year of birth as 'c.1700'; it also refers to a newspaper from 1746 which mentioned his death. In combination with his will of 1745 it seems likely that he died in one of those years. It is also not known where he was born; it is suggested that he was from Naples as some of his children lived there. In the 1730s he settled in London; there is no unanimity about the year of his arrival. He played an important part in performances of Handel's operas. It is known for sure that he played the obbligato cello part in the aria 'Son qual stanco pellegrina' in the performance of Arianna in Creta in January 1734. George Kennaway, in his liner-notes, suggests that he was already in London before Handel had completed the composition of this opera. In that case he might have been the cellist in 'Gentle airs, melodious strains' from the oratorio Athalia some months earlier. "[This] expressively melodic obbligato does at least appear to be of the sort that suited Caporale". According to Charles Burney, Caporale "though no deep musician, nor gifted with a very powerful hand, was always heard with great partiality, from the almost single merit, of a full, sweet and vocal tone".

It seems that the sonatas recorded by Kristin von der Goltz reflect the character of Caporale as a performer. They are not very virtuosic, never explore the extremes of the cello's range and don't include any double stopping. This means that they were playable by good amateurs, and that could well have been Caporale's intention, but it was probably also his own personal preference. They are written in the galant idiom and are all in three movements, usually in the order slow - fast - fast, although three end with a cantabile which indicates the character rather than the tempo. Among them is the Sonata VI in G included here.

These sonatas were part of a collection of 12 sonatas, six of which were composed by another immigrant, the German-born Johann Ernst Galliard, and which was offered to Frederick Prince of Wales. John Ernest Galliard was born in Celle in Germany, where he received lessons on the flute and the oboe from a French member of the court orchestra. He joined the orchestra himself in 1698, but when it was disbanded in 1706 he went to England where he joined the chapel of Prince George of Denmark, Queen Anne's consort. He played a considerable role in musical life in London and was one of the founders of the Academy of Ancient Music. It has been suggested that Handel composed his Sonata in c minor (HWV 366) for Galliard.

The largest part of his career he spent playing the oboe in the Queen's Theatre and composing music for the theatre. The assessments of his qualities as a composer were mixed. Burney was unimpressed, calling him 'correct' and unoriginal. But the music historian Sir John Hawkins was more positive and saw a "natural and elegant style" as hallmarks of Galliard's compositions. His instrumental works take a small part in his oeuvre. In addition to the six in the 1746 edition he published a set of six sonatas for cello or bassoon in 1733; three of these are included here. His first collection of music was his op. 1, a set of six recorder sonatas from 1710. As Galliard was not a cellist by profession and the 1733 set is for bassoon or cello one can't expect any idiomatic writing for the cello. Like in Caporale's sonatas the range is limited and there is no double stopping. Idiomatically they are a little more conservative than Caporale's sonatas. All of them are in four movements and follow largely the Corellian model of the sonata da camera.

Kristin von der Goltz delivers lively and engaging performances. She takes slightly faster tempi than Guy Fishman in his complete recording of Caporale's sonatas and her dynamic accents are a little more pronounced. The most striking difference is the cantabile which closes the Sonata VI in G: here she takes only 1'34" whereas Fishman needs 5'19". Elsewhere the differences are far less extreme. There are no other recordings of Galliard's sonatas which I know of, except of some sonatas from the set for cello or bassoon. But as Jennifer Harris from the Ensemble Chameleon plays them on the bassoon these two performances are hardly comparable. In some movements Ms Von der Goltz goes a little overboard and is her playing on the brink of ugliness, especially in the corrente from Galliard's Sonata IV in e minor. The performance of the basso continuo in some sonatas by a lute harpsichord is an interesting option. It seems that in some sonatas Andreas Küppers plays a kind of introduction (but the booklet doesn't mention the issue), a habit which was quite common in the baroque era but it still seldom practiced today.

Luigi Boccherini is the only composer of the four featured here who has never been in England. In 1768 he had planned to go to London, in the company of the violinist Filippo Manfredi, a member of the string quartet he was part of, but they went to Madrid instead as they had been promised posts there by the Spanish ambassador. Boccherini spent the rest of his life in Spain which had a lasting influence on the development of his compositional style. Especially the many string quintets were composed during that time. There is no unanimity as to whether he has written any cello sonatas after his arrival in Spain. It is often suggested that these date from before he arrived there, but that has been questioned.

If one has listened to the sonatas by Caporale and Galliard and then turns to Boccherini - as I did while preparing this review - the differences are very clear. It seems likely that Boccherini composed these sonatas for his own use in the first place and therefore they may reflect his own skills. In her liner-notes Catherine Jones states that "Boccherini pushes the instrument to it's [sic] technical limits (...). One particular passage in Sonata G4 (allegro) is worth noting as the solo cello part goes so high that one must play on the bare string without the support of the fingerboard." She adds that many cellists play this section down one octave but she believes that this is not in line with the composer's intention. She decided to play it as he required. As one may expect there is also much double stopping. Interesting are passages with effects which seem to refer to the guitar tradition in Spain. Obviously this supports the suggestion that at least some of the cello sonatas may have been written after his settlement there.

The three sonatas by Boccherini which Catherine Jones selected for her recording are all from a set of six published in London in 1772. About the same time the London publisher Welcker printed a set of six solos for cello and basso continuo by Giovanni Battista Cirri as his op. 15. Cirri was from Forli, a town southeast of Bologna, and received the first music lessons from his brother Ignazio. His first position was that of composer and cellist of the San Petronio basilica in Bologna. In the 1760s he started to travel; he played at the Concert Spirituel in Paris and in 1764 he settled in London. He was employed as a chamber musician to the Duke of York whom he had met in Forli. When the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart played in London he participated in the concerts as a soloist. He also performed in the Bach-Abel concerts. In 1780 he returned to Forli.

His sonatas have some of the same features as we noted in Boccherini's sonatas which betray that he was a professional cellist himself. Among them are the use of double stopping and the exploration of the higher registers of the instrument. However, in the latter he doesn't go as far as Boccherini. That makes his sonatas a little easier accessible to (good) amateurs. Catherine Jones considers these sonatas as specimens of the early classical style whereas she sees Boccherini's as 'high baroque'. I am not so sure about that. I see more parallels than differences and that gives this disc a large amount of stylistic cohesion.

Boccherini's sonatas have been recorded before but are certainly not often played. The three sonatas by Cirri are recorded here for the first time. Because of that this disc is of great importance, also considering the quality of these sonatas, and that includes those by Cirri. He has written many more and I am curious to hear them as well as other parts of his oeuvre. Catherine Jones is an outstanding and convincing advocate of his sonatas and plays them with much passion. That also goes for the three sonatas by Boccherini. Her technical prowess is impressive; these sonatas are very demanding but her technical skills allow her to concentrate on the interpretation. The allegro from the Sonata in A has already been mentioned; that is definitely one of the highlights of this disc. Another one is the last movement from Cirri's Sonata in g minor which is a tempo di minuetto con variazioni. Here the rhythmic pulse is perfectly conveyed thanks to the marked dynamic accents.

This is cello playing of the highest order and I strongly recommend this disc to all cello aficionados.

Johan van Veen (© 2015)

Relevant links:

William Carter
Alison McGillivray
Catherine Jones
Andreas Küppers
Giulia Nuti

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