Celebrating the genius of CPE Bach’s instrumental sonatas and the forgotten 18th century cello virtuoso, Francesco Alborea. Performed on an original five-string piccolo cello and baroque cello, the tantalising contrast of instrumental colours on this premier recording offers a redefinition of the baroque cello’s rich heritage.
’At first it seems an unusual decision to perform C.P.E. Bach’s two viola da gamba sonatas on the five-string piccolo cello for which J.S. Bach wrote his Sixth Cello Suite. Jennifer Morsches, having found the music well fitted to the instrument’s compass, took her cue both from Quantz, C.P.E.’s colleague at the Prussian court, who recommended the piccolo cello for virtuoso repertoire, and from the instrumental flexibility of the period to make her own arrangements, playing them on an instrument of 1735, just ten years before these sonatas were written.
In the event the high fifth string emits a similar nasal tone to the gamba, and the musicality and flair of Morsches’s performances are such that one soon forgets to question her decision. C.P.E.’s revolutionary Empfindsamkeit (sensitive style) is everywhere evident, with Morsches leaning into the more expressive notes, dramatically timing the long pauses, and playing the melodic ornamentation with elegant feeling.
Bach shares this disc with the only three extant works of Neapolitan virtuoso cello pioneer Francesco Alborea (1691–1739). Morsches gives vigorous performances of these busy works, always allowing space for the music to speak, and embellishing with virtuosic ease. A more extensive continuo group broadens the timbre, and you can just imagine the light flooding in through the church windows in this open, airy acoustic.’
‘…this disc is lovingly played and recorded. The program is intelligent enough for continuous listening, and the variety of the chamber instruments and moods is sure to hold your attention. In short, this is essential for lovers of the Baroque.
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s two offerings are here transcribed tastefully for Violoncello piccolo. Jennifer Morsches is a wonderful cellist, playing with warmth and virtuosity alike. Robin Bigwood is the kind of harpsichordist that you want to hear in the event you don’t like the harpsichord, he’s a tremendous artist who makes the instrument an equal chamber music partner. The sound is full and rich, and just the kind of thing for a rainy day. Are these masterpieces? I’m not sure, but they are worth having all the same.
The Francesco Alborea pieces have a good deal more to offer in terms of contrast, employing instruments that we don’t usually hear in this way outside of the specialist market. Bigwood’s contributions are again exceptional whether on harpsichord or organ, and Morsches is just as comfortable on the Baroque cello as she was on the rarer Violoncello piccolo. Jane Gower and David Miller – the latter on the theorbo and archlute – really bring something new to the party, so to speak. The bassoon is not an instrument I would think of for a cello sonata, but then, I don’t get paid to compose. It works, and surprisingly well; so too does Miller’s gently confident string playing. Simply stunning.’
With Robin Bigwood (harpsichord, organ), David Miller (theorbo, archlute), Jane Gower (bassoon)
Recorded at St James’s Church, Abinger, UK in December 2012.
Session production: Steven Devine