The Strad Issue: January 2008
Musicians: Richard Tunnicliffe (cello) Avison Ensemble, Pavlo Besnosiuk (director)
Composer: Garth

The talented English organist, composer and entrepreneur John Garth (1721–1810) was based largely in Durham. His six cello concertos op.1 were published in 1760 and are transitional works in the genre’s evolution. Nevertheless, the quality of their invention underlines the injustice of their neglect.

In this world premiere recording Richard Tunnicliffe’s warm communicative style and the Avison Ensemble’s shapely and meaningful contributions cannot fail to win you over. They take the opening movements at nicely measured speeds, particularly nos. 3, 5 and 6, allowing ample breathing space for the soloist to overcome comfortably the various technical challenges and for all to convey intelligently the sense of the music. Tunnicliffe makes expressive use of Garth’s elegant galant clichés in the central slow movements, particularly in the affettuoso movements of nos.2, 4 and 5. His Siciliana of no.6 is also delightful, and the lyrical Andantes of nos.1 and 3 admirably demonstrate his expansive shaping of the melodic line, often incorporating tasteful embellishment. The finales display some dance influence, particularly the nimble Giga of no.1 and the elegant Minuet of no.4. Tunnicliffe especially excels in the finale of no.2, which includes some skilful cross-string solo passagework and a striking solo section in pizzicato. His cadenzas are consistently tasteful, meaningful and appropriate to the sensibility of the period.

While it is unclear how its personnel listed in the booklet notes relates to the full title of Garth’s op.1, Pavlo Beznosiuk’s period-instrument Avison Ensemble provides excellent support throughout. The recording is immediate and present without being too forward.