WORKS: Complete Cello Sonatas
PERFORMER: David Watkin (solo cello), Helen Gough (continuo cello), David Miller (theorbo, archlute, Baroque guitar), Robert King (organ, harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66881/2 DDD
David Watkin’s integral survey of Vivaldi’s authenticated Cello Sonatas ranks honourably among the best available. Several rival contenders may be safely passed over; Anthony Pleeth (ASV), and Susan Sheppard (CRD) endorse CPE Bach’s time-honoured, universal palliative for Baroque accompaniment – just keyboard and cello continuo alone. Christoph Coin, Pieter Wispelwey (reviewed September 1994), and now David Watkin spice that hitherto drab concoction with additional parts for theorbo, archlute, and Baroque guitar. Julius Berger (on Orfeo) plays a modern instrument accompanied throughout by chamber organ, and includes a tenth Sonata in A, of dubious provenance and consequently omitted from Ryom’s catalogue. Watkin and Coin (L’Oiseau-Lyre), then, emerge decisively amid a very mixed field.
Finest among these works is the E minor Sonata, RV 40 (given wider currency in emasculations by Bazelaire and d’Indy), readily highlighting Watkin’s purposeful style, uncluttered by intrusive gesture, though adept, emphatic and serene. Coin, altogether more sanguine and athletic, has greater spontaneity and allure alongside Watkin’s decorum, impeccable clarity and relative restraint. Coin ornaments melodic lines more liberally, and collectors who prefer their Vivaldi agile, daring and occasionally a touch cavalier will find him enthralling. The dutifully introspective Watkin has the advantage of outstanding continuo support, and a recording of surpassing beauty and unexaggerated perspectives. Pieter Wispelwey’s Channel Classics issue is competent though incomplete, so if faced with a choice, I’d opt for David Watkin’s consistently articulate playing, the decisive criterion being Hyperion’s rapturously seductive sound.