WORKS: Arias from cantatas (arr. Koopman); Cello Concerto in B flat, G482; Cello Concerto in D, G476
PERFORMER: Yo-Yo Ma (cello); Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra/Ton Koopman (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: SK 60681
Simply Baroque II, recorded at the same time as the initial volume, also copies its predecessor’s format. Nine transcriptions of Bach arias and chorales are followed by two Boccherini cello concertos. The transcriptions, by Ton Koopman, are designed to feature Yo-Yo Ma, guesting with members of the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, and make pleasant if rather anodyne listening. Only the Aria from the Goldberg Variations, played here by cello and organ, really commands attention, its beauty arrestingly recast by such dark sonorities. But nowhere is Ma stretched by these brief, respectful adaptations, and the booklet’s suggestion that he is somehow transcending the boundaries of his instrument is simply risible.
The Boccherini concertos are a different matter – passionate, engaging performances of genuinely challenging music. Boccherini, one of the first great cello virtuosi, wrote these pieces to showcase his playing, and the outer movements in particular sashay along with plenty of bravura. Ironically, Boccherini never bothered to write down the improvised cadenzas where he really unleashed his virtuosity, so Koopman has composed some in period style which Ma executes with palpable relish. The B flat Concerto, probably Boccherini’s best-known, is outstanding, its thrilling blend of swagger and subtlety played to perfection. Graham Lock