Techniques old and new come together on a disc of Baroque concertos
Giovanni Sollima is the spirited, dexterous soloist in three Baroque Neapolitan cello concertos, in performances that unashamedly embrace stylistic plurality. His interpretations of the fast movements of concertos by Leonardo Leo, Nicola Fiorenza and Giuseppe de Majo display plenty of virtuosity and aggression, and he plays the slow movements with appropriate lyricism and affection. However, although some embellishing gestures are culled from period-instrument colleagues, much of the ornamentation suggests Sollima himself. Similarly, phrasing styles vacillate between ancient and modern, as does some of the content of Sollima’s cadenzas.
Sollima’s own concertante composition, Fecit Neap. 17.., complements these concertos, finding inspiration in past styles and techniques. It includes a continuo harpsichord, evolves from improvisation and mixes two contrasting moods, the first pensive and the second predominantly energetic, sometimes even folk-like. His performance has impressive panache, precision and artistry and never lacks drama, but overall the work seems to demand considerable effort for little reward.
Throughout, the contribution of the small string group is alert, articulate and commendably unanimous of ensemble and purpose, as is amply confirmed by its account of Fiorenza’s Sinfonia à 4 violini e basso continuo. The recording is vivid and full-bodied.