Geminiani: Cello Sonatas, Op. 5

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COMPOSERS: Geminiani
LABELS: Symphonia
WORKS: Cello Sonatas, Op. 5
PERFORMER: Gaetano Nasillo, Tobias Bonz (cello), Jesper Christensen (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: SY 00182
The great and influential 18th-century historian Charles Burney had little good to say about Geminiani. His melodies were irregular, his phrases asymmetrical, creating ‘a confusion in the effect of the whole’. In his playing, too, he was ‘always deficient in Time’.

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Listening to these neglected cello sonatas I can’t argue with Burney’s structural analysis, but the musical effects are constantly varied and delightful. The Presto of No. 2 bounds along in dizzying chromatic harmonies; strings of evocative appoggiaturas lend a distinctive passion and anxiety to adagios; the charming Allegro of No. 3 sets off in predictable pairs of equal phrases before discovering an extra four bars round the corner. Geminiani himself advocated ‘sprezzatura di canto’, the fluid expressiveness of singing, illustrated in a recitative-like opening and a seamlessly extended Adagio in Sonata No. 5, beautifully flexible rather than ‘deficient in Time’. Elsewhere the expression is more dramatic – the Fourth Sonata opens with grandiose gestures before a gaunt Allegro interrupted by brusque unisons.

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The performance is stylish, energetic and technically assured, while the problem of differentiating the two cellos is cleverly managed; the soloist, Nasillo, is forward and grainy in tone with the continuo of Bonz appreciably more distant and integrated with the harpsichord. George Pratt