LABELS: Cello Classics
WORKS: Cello Sonatas, G5, G6, G562, G563 & G567
PERFORMER: Sebastian Comberti, Ruth Alford (cello), Elizabeth Kenny (archlute, guitar)
CATALOGUE NO: CC 1001 (distr. Select)
Many of Boccherini’s cello sonatas date from early in his career and were written specifically to showcase his virtuoso playing on concert tours. What remains unclear is the accompanying instrumentation intended by his terse description ‘e basso’: the writing itself points to a second cello or possibly a double bass, though convention often adds a keyboard and/or plucked string instrument too. The first option may sound austere, but it’s a paradoxically rich austerity, as exemplified by Richard Lester’s 1994 Hyperion recording, which for me is still the best single-disc introduction to this attractive repertoire.
The three cellists under review each opt for a different ‘basso’: Sebastian Comberti for second cello plus either archlute or guitar; Michal Kanka for second cello plus harpsichord; Gaetano Nasillo for second cello on four sonatas, harp on a fifth. But other differences are more telling. Nasillo’s phrasing lacks definition and there are moments of wayward intonation; Kanka’s brisk tempi and busy harpsichord continuo often reduce the music to slick anonymity. Comberti, however, is both technically assured and expressive, and his disc also offers the bonus of three previously unrecorded sonatas – G562, G563 and G567. All are fine pieces, with the first boasting a particularly lovely Adagio. Graham Lock