La Voce del violoncello: solo works of the first Italian cellist composers
Elinor Frey (baroque cello)
Esteban La Rotta (theorbo, baroque guitar) and Susie Napper (baroque cello)
Passacaille 993

3.5 stars

Frey’s notes explain the late 17th-century enthusiasm for the cello, which was not yet standardised in construction or tuning but developing as a lighter, more agile instrument than its predecessors. This CD journeys through this development to the mid-18th century, executed on an almost contemporaneous instrument.

The expert composers explored most of the technical possibilities imaginable at the time, as is indicated by the prevalence of genres such as ricercar, toccata and capriccio. The opening track, Giuseppe Colombi’s Tromba a basso solo accompanied by theorbo, ranges from declamatory scrubbing to delicate melodic phrasing. Some works are based on Italian dances such as tarantella, romanella and bergamasca (Giulio Ruvo and Francesco Vitali), while others use extreme registers, double stopping and pizzicato (Dall’Abaco’s Capriccio Quinto) or two–part contrapuntal writing (Colombi’s Ciaconna).

My only quibble is that, in the succession of 23 short works, the relationships between keys of adjacent tracks is sometimes jarringly distant.

Trish Shaw