Sonatas for Cello and Basso Continuo, RV 40, 41, 43, 45-47
Jean-Guihen Queyras, Christoph Dangel (cello), Lee Santana (theorbo), Michael Behringer (harpsichord, organ)
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902278 71:11 mins
Vivaldi seems to have held the cello in particular affection. Over 25 concertos for the instrument as well as nine sonatas with continuo provide ample and rewarding testament. This recording by Jean-Guihen Queyras features the six cello sonatas which were published in Paris in 1740, apparently without the composer’s knowledge and erroneously identified as his Op. 13.
They are, without exception, pieces of great charm, full of imaginative flourishes and whose slow movements, frequently reveal Vivaldi’s sensibility to the expressive cantabile possibilities afforded by the cello. Indeed, few Baroque composers other than Bach and perhaps Geminiani realised the instrument’s solo potential better than he. Queyras responds on the one hand to the music with extrovert vigour, as in the first Allegro of the A minor Sonata, or on the other hand with a poignant lyricism, if a little too brisk, that is requisite for the second Largo of the Sonata in E minor. In these movements, as throughout, Queyras brings colour to his understanding of these splendid pieces, sustaining Vivaldi’s melodic contours with eloquent bowing and an ability to project their poetry. His dynamic range mirrors the esprit of the music and his ornamentation is generally judicious and pleasingly devoid of empty gesture. Following today’s increasingly popular fashion the continuo group offers varied colours afforded by harpsichord, organ, theorbo and cello in frequently changing configurations. In short, I find Queyras and his confederates persuasive and stylistically enlightened advocates for six Sonatas with which all lovers of the cello should become acquainted. Recorded sound is ideal and the booklet contains an interesting essay and an interview with Queyras.