A new take on a champion of the viola da gamba

Bruno Delepelaire: Abel

The Strad Issue: February 2023

Description: A new take on a champion of the viola da gamba

Musicians: Bruno Delepelaire (cello) Christoph Hartmann (oboe) Berliner Barock Soloisten/ Kristof Polonek (violin/director)

Works: Abel: Cello Concertos: in C major, in B flat major; Sinfonie concertante: in B flat major, in D major

Catalogue number: HÄNSSLER CLASSIC HC 22022 

For many, Carl Friedrich Abel is principally known as a virtuoso viola da gamba performer and composer, perhaps stubbornly clinging to this instrument at a time in the latter part of the 18th century when it was already regarded as outdated. Yet he also made a clear Haydnesque contribution to the cello repertoire, as reflected in these Classically lyrical concertos. They certainly warrant wider dissemination: the slow movements of both works are particularly attractive, with exquisite lingering high notes full of piquant expression. The finale of the C major Concerto is full of joie de vivre and skips along, enhanced here by light bowing and strongly defined rhythmic characterisation. Inevitably there’s an element of stylistic fusion to the music, with dashing string-crossing passages that spice up textures recalling earlier Baroque idioms. Bruno Delepelaire delivers stylish renditions, with the sometimes awkwardly placed virtuoso writing despatched with consummate ease.

The two Sinfonie concertante are perhaps a little more musically inventive, and here Delepelaire responds to the mastery of oboist Christoph Hartmann and violinist Kristof Polonek by allowing himself a more demonstrative place in the dialogue, in the manner of a true chamber musician. The Berliner ensemble is effortless and provides an elegant partnership, balancing a brilliantly clear sound with outstanding phasing and powerfully projected rhythmic articulation.