Tuesday 25 November 2014

Cello with zing - sonatas by Boccherini and Cirri

Boccherini and Cirri Cello Sonatas, Catherine Jones, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
Cello sonatas by Boccherini and Cirri; Catherine Jones, Giulia Nuti, Alison McGillivray and William Carter; Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Nov 16 2014
Star rating: 5.0

Brilliantly involving and technically poised performances of 18th century virtuoso cello sonatas

Both Luigi Boccherini (1743 - 1805) and Giovanni Battista Cirri (1724 - 1808) were Italian cello virtuosos and composers, and both spent a large part of their working life away from Italy with Boccherini in Madrid and Cirri in London. They probably never met (though narrowly missed each other in Paris in 1765). Both had books of cello sonatas published in London in 1775, and Australian cellist Catherine Jones (herself an expatriate) has now recorded three of Boccherini's sonatas with three of Cirri's Opus 15 sonatas on a new disc for Deutsche Harmonia Mundi. She is joined by harpsichordist Giulia Nuti with cellist Alison McGillivray and William Carter on archlute and guitar.

Boccherini was very highly regarded during his lifetime and frequently compared to Haydn. In these sontatas Boccherini's familiar lightness and joie de vivre is combined with a great technical facility as he pushes the cello, his own instrument, to its limits. Boccherini was based in Spain from 1761 until his death. Like Scarlatti before him, Spain seems to have found its way into Boccherini's music and his writing for cello includes guitar like textures. Not only that, this music has a zing in the faster movements which the performers bring out.

The sonatas on this disc are very much on the cusp of the classical tradition. Whilst they are virtuoso three-movement sonatas for a solo instrument, the accompaniment still uses a basso continuo with a harpsichord plus second cello part and lute/guitar. For the Boccherini, Jones and William Carter have chosen to use as baroque guitar rather than lute, to bring out the Spanish flavour of the music.

Whilst Boccherini was younger than Cirri, in many ways Cirri's music is more advanced. He lived in London from 1764 to 1780 and was one of the performers in eight year old Mozart's first public concerts in London. Cirri was undoubtedly exposed to far more of the new 'galant' classical style than Boccherini, after all JC Bach was living in London then whilst Boccherini was already in Madrid. Jones, in her programme note, says that she feels that whilst Boccherini's sonatas are High Baroque, Cirri's are Classical and they are undoubtedly more galant, than those of Boccherini but no less technically difficult.

Jones performs the virtuoso solo parts wth elegance and zing. In the Boccherini she bring a lovely elan to the bravura string-crossing moments and throughout makes her playing extremely present and involving. All the performers contribute to the delightful vivacity of these performers, with bravura moments but also elegance too in just the right combination. These are performances which make you want to listen to more. You can sample the disc on Jones's Vimeo posting.

Luigi Boccherini (1743 - 1805) - Sonata No. 1 in A minor, G.13
Luigi Boccherini (1743 - 1805) - Sonata No. 6 in A major, G.4
Luigi Boccherini (1743 - 1805) - Sonata No. 2 in C major, G.2
Giovanni Battista Cirri (1724 - 1808) - Sonata No. 5 in G minor, Op. 15
Giovanni Battista Cirri (1724 - 1808) - Sonata No. 3 in F major, Op. 15
Giovanni Battista Cirri (1724 - 1808) - Sonata No. 4 in A major, Op. 15
Catherine Jones (cello)
Giulia Nuti (harpsichord)
Alison McGillivray (cello)
William Carter (archlute, guitar)
DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 88875013182 1CD [67.08]
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