Concerti Napoletani per Violoncello – FIORENZA, PORPORA, LEO, SABATINO – Gaetano Nasillo, cello/ L’Ensemble 415 cond. by Chiara Banchini – Zig-Zag Territoires

by | Oct 31, 2008 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Concerti Napoletani per Violoncello – FIORENZA, PORPORA, LEO, SABATINO – Gaetano Nasillo, cello/ L’Ensemble 415 cond. by Chiara Banchini – Zig-Zag Territoires ZZT 050302, 69:00 ****(*) [Distr. by Allegro]:

Calling themselves “children of the apogee of the compact disc,” the founders of the Zig-Zag Territoires label celebrated their tenth anniversary in 2006. During their first decade and since, they have produced more than 100 releases which have illuminated the record catalogues with incomparably high musical and packaging achievements. Whether it’s their complete set of the Beethoven symphonies conducted by Jos van Immerseel or this breathtaking disc of gorgeous 18th century cello concertos, Zig-Zag is definitely one of the essential French labels.

As its catalogue has grown, Zig-Zag’s approach to sound recording, developed by Franck Jaffrès, has become established as one of the label’s hallmarks. At its best, which is most of the time, it has come to mean a commitment to capturing the texture of the original instruments which perform most of the recordings, not just on a superficial basis but within a profoundly deep musical and acoustical context. So, for example, on this CD, you hear the bite of the bow on the string and the texture of each note not just from the dazzlingly elegant soloist, Gaetano Nasillo, but seemingly from each of the instruments in Chiara Banchini’s Ensemble 415.  

The cello concertos on this disc, highlighting the the rise of a virtuoso repertoire for cello in Naples in the last part of the 17th century and the first part of the 18th, varies considerably in emotional temperature. There are two fiercely attractive, ferociously minor key concertos by Nicola Fiorenza (d. 1764), and one very laid-back major key one by Nicola Sabatino (c1705-1796), both relatively obscure composers and teachers. By way of contrast there are two extremely gracious and seductive major key concertos by two relatively well-known composers, Nicola Porpora and Leonardo Leo.

In each, Nasillo, Banchini and the Ensemble 415 conspire to capture from the opening bar the nature of the music and an accompanying sense of where its beauties will lie, which make listening a total joy. Only in slower stretches of the Sabatino does their energy and inspiration flag. Overall, this is very heady stuff, as if Yo-Yo Ma had been transfigured back through the centuries, handed a Baroque cello and told to play his heart out according to the stylistic guidelines of the time.

While Zig-Zag’s current packaging is not as sumptuous as its first releases were, they still feature provocatively original paintings by Anne Peultier and thoughtful, well-translated (and extended) program notes, in this case by Stefano Aresi. And the sound, of course, as noted above, is sublime.

– Laurence Vittes

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