Notes and Editorial Reviews
Cello Concertos: in B?,
Cello Concerto in D.
Cello Concerto in d,
Sol Gabetta (vc); Andres Gabetta, cond; Cappella Gabetta (period instruments)
SONY 793230 (71:13)
It appears that this brand-new Sony release is a continuation of Sol Gabetta’s Vivaldi project begun some four years ago with a different period-instrument ensemble, Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca, and on a different label, for the current album is titled
The Vivaldi Project 2.
Just a few days ago, I finished writing a review of another disc of Vivaldi cello concertos—more or less—performed by Jean-Guihen Queyras and the Academy of Ancient Music Berlin. I was a bit disappointed with that release, not for the playing, which was beyond reproach, but for the program, which promised to be about Vivaldi’s cello concertos but turned out to offer only three of them. Gabetta, too, offers only three of Vivaldi’s concertos along with one of the composer’s cello sonatas, but she has the right idea in completing her disc with a couple of cello concertos by two slightly later Vivaldi contemporaries, one of which, the Platti, is advertised as a world premiere recording. She also has the right stuff to play these works, which are by no means easy.
There are no duplications, by the way, between Gabetta’s and Queyras’s discs. If they both continue down this road, however, eventually their paths cannot help but intersect.
Way back in
31:2, I gave a rave review to Gabetta’s RCA recording of Tchaikovsky’s
and Saint-Saëns’s Cello Concerto No. 1. At the time, the young cellist was relatively new to the scene and not yet on my radar, but I was so taken with her playing that I named the CD cello disc of the year for 2007. That was followed up three years later with a trio of concertos by Haydn, Leopold Hofmann, and Mozart (courtesy of George Szell), which I panned mercilessly in 33:6. It wasn’t Gabetta’s playing I found fault with, but some of the very unorthodox ideas thrust upon her by conductor Sergio Ciomei. By that time Gabetta’s conversion to period instruments was complete.
On the current recording, Andrés Gabetta (Sol’s brother) imposes no quirky ideology on these performances. He leads the Cappella Gabetta from his position as concertmaster of the ensemble, supporting his soloist with robust
tuttis and deferring to her, as appropriate, in solo passages. I particularly like the fact that the
are sanely paced and don’t push Sol or the ensemble’s players to the edge of the unplayable. Vivaldi’s writing for the solo cello is demanding enough already without adopting the speed-of-light tempos that some period-instrument groups favor.
Sol plays a cello made by Ferdinando Gagliano in 1781, not a modern copy. The Cappella Gabetta, thankfully, is not exactly a one-to-a-part ensemble, but perhaps in deference to the solo cello, it does seem a bit thin on the bottom. Only one viola and one cello in the
body of strings are employed against six violins. That doesn’t seem quite balanced or fair. It’s helped somewhat by a second cello and double bass that reinforce the bass line of the harpsichord and theorbo continuo, but when the ensemble plays full force, it doesn’t have quite the round, plump tush one might like. As noted above, however, this may have been calculated so as not to overwhelm the solo instrument, which is itself skewed toward the bass.
If you’re familiar with Vivaldi’s cello concertos—and there are enough recordings of them that there’s no excuse not to be—you’ll know that they’re patterned in the composer’s customary three-movement, fast-slow-fast layout, with vigorous
framing a lyrical cantilena movement. The G-Minor Sonata, on the other hand, is unusual in that its layout takes the form of the
sonata—slow-fast-slow-fast—yet its movements take the titles of the Baroque dance suite—Prelude, Allemande, Sarabande, and Gigue.
Leonardo Leo (1694–1744) was a leading figure in the Neapolitan school, composing some 40 operas and a not inconsiderable volume of church music and other instrumental works. Oddly, though, to the extent that he’s remembered at all, it’s for a set of six cello concertos he wrote in the mid 1730s, and they’ve not been neglected on disc. Several recordings of them exist on both modern and period instruments. The one I’ve long had in my collection is a still-listed two-CD ASV set with cellist Josephine Knight and the English Chamber Orchestra.
The D-Minor Cello Concerto by Giovanni Benedetto Platti (?1697–1763) may be new to disc, but it’s not the first time other of his cello concertos have been recorded. As far back as 26:6, Brian Robins reviewed a disc of Italian cello concertos performed by Lucia Swarts, which included two Platti concertos, one in C Major and one in C Minor. Robins mentions the existence of 28 such works, which would mean that Platti wrote as many cello concertos as Vivaldi did.
Platti was born in Padua (the exact date disputed), studied with Francesco Gasparini in Venice, and emigrated to Germany, where he was employed by Johann Philipp Franz von Schönborn, prince and bishop of Würzburg, and where he remained for the rest of his life. He is said to have been an accomplished harpsichordist, oboist, violinist, cellist, and singer, reports of which are supported by his output, which consists largely of instrumental works, especially ones that seem to favor the cello.
Based on the hearing of Platti’s D-Minor Concerto on this disc (I haven’t heard the Swarts CD Robins reviewed), it’s hard to understand why some cellist hasn’t undertaken a project to record all 28 of the composer’s concertos, because this one is quite striking. It would never be mistaken for anything but an Italian Baroque piece, but it’s somehow darker in tone and more lyrically arching in expression than Vivaldi’s concertos, which tend to be more athletic and not quite as contrapuntally interactive. In this respect, Platti’s approach seems to be a bit closer to that of Albinoni.
This is a very enjoyable disc. I’m not prepared to say that Gabetta outshines Queyras in this repertoire, but I do find her program more satisfying. On the other hand, I prefer the fuller consort of Queyras’s Academy of Ancient Music Berlin to Gabetta’s more modest Cappella Gabetta forces. Neither CD, however, is going to diminish my affection for Raphael Wallfisch and the City of London Sinfonia’s four-disc run of Vivaldi concertos on Naxos or, for that matter, Heinrich Schiff’s single Philips CD with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. I realize that being modern-instrument versions these are not directly comparable with Queyras or Gabetta, but what can I say? I like all four of them, and one can never have too much Vivaldi.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Cello in G minor, RV 416 by Antonio Vivaldi
Sol Gabetta (Cello)
Written: Venice, Italy
Concerto for Cello in A minor, RV 420 by Antonio Vivaldi
Sol Gabetta (Cello)
Written: Venice, Italy
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