Entrez, le Diable! = LANZETTI: Sonata in e minor, Op. 1, No. 8; BERTEAU: Sonata in G Major, Op. 1, No. 3; MARTIN: Sonata in D Major, Op. 2, No. 4; BARRIERE: Sonata in D Major, Book 1, No. 4; Sonata in d minor, Book 3, No. 5 – Juliana Soltis, Baroque cello/ Adalha MacAdam-Somer, viola da gamba/ Lucas Harris, theorbo/ Justin Murphy-Mancini, harpsichord – Acis APL 72276, 62:05 (5/9/17) [Distr. by Albany] ****:

The intimate and audacious joys of the Italian cello return in their youthful guise via the art of Juliana Soltis.

Recorded 13-15 January 2016, the Baroque cello works proffered by performer-scholar Juliana Soltis celebrate the advent of the appearance of Neapolitan Salvatore Lanzetti (1710-1780) and his historic appearance in May 1736 at the Concert Spirituel at the Tuileries in Paris.  The Italian cello had long suffered a second-class citizenship in musical circles, where the viola da gamba or basse de viole received stellar status.  Lanzetti’s Sonata in e minor alternately demands what Soltis calls “sweet singing consonances” and “wild, woolly dissonances.”

The aesthetician Hubert Le Blanc in his 1740 Defense de la basse de viole castigated the cello as “a miserable canker, wretch and poor Devil.” Hence, the signature rubric of this album and its singular arrangement of trio sonatas and pieces de ensemble that display the eerily light and expressively experimental sounds of the repertory that sets the tone for this burgeoning appreciation of the Italian cello.

The Sonata in G Major, Op. 1, No. 3 by Martin Berteau (1691-1771) seems intent upon capturing the “guitar” or “harp” capacities of the instrument,  with its long series of plucked accompaniments and cantabile melodic lines in the cello. Berteau initiated the French school of cello playing, favoring an underhand bowing technique. The second Allegro movement of the piece prefigures much of Torelli and Leclair at once, with occasional use of harmonics and frequent shifts of register to add to the easy drama of the piece. The last movement, Rondeau: Amoroso projects an especial stile brise rife with humor and demure sensuality.

Francois Martin (1727-1757) adds to the variegated colors of the program, his Sonata in D Major, Op. 2, No. 4 rife with playful harmonics and bubbling arpeggios.  The appearance of a bold pedal effect seems to mark Martin’s style, while the catty scales, rolling arpeggios, and plucked accompaniment savors the influence of folk, rustic dance influence. The long opening Allegro provides its own lesson in Baroque cello practice, and its dynamic range moves from singular, intimate lines to “symphonic” ambitions. The gavotte-like latter movements enjoy a staid nobility, with a deep-toned sequence in the cello that soon moves into a serenade that vaguely hints at Scarlatti and lute tradition that would influence the Baroque harpsichord.

Jean-Baptiste Barriere (1707-1747) dominates the last twenty minutes of this fascinating disc: Barriere seems to have culminated the French development in cello art, embracing in his quatre livres the essence of Italian-French taste according to the aesthetic lights of Jean-Philippe Rameau.  His pieces display excited virtuosity and economy at once, exuberant in double-stops and lyrical ariosi, and then motor impulses that prefigure the Lombardic drive in Vivaldi.

The whole disc has reveled in the inter-twining of concertante and solo elements, in which Soltis has had thoroughly transparent assistance from Adalina MacAdam-Somer, Lucas Harris, and Justin Murphy-Mancini.  Credit Producer Geoffrey Silver with a sound team that has warmly and pointedly captured the sensibility of those audacious days at Concert Spirituel.

—Gary Lemco