The sounds of the Baroque cello, once lost in the obscurity of the music that was written for the instrument, have been researched and revived in splendid fashion by Tutti Bassi, formed in 2012 by Baroque cellists Sarah Freiberg and Colleen McGary-Smith, members of Boston’s illustrious Handel & Haydn Society.
Each of the 29 tracks on Have Cellos, Will Travel is an example of the delights to be found in phrasing and dialog, in creating simple beauty from simple sounds. Even at their most extravagant, these are not brilliant tours de force such as those created by Paul and Maud Tortelier 75 years ago from originals by Giardini, Rameau, and Couperin. These are exercises in purely musical communication, which provide great enjoyment whether one is listening or playing.
A Sonata by Johann Ernst Galliard is rich with the colors of Couperin, 20 years his senior. A Sonata by the Dutch violone virtuoso Willem de Fesch is infused with his contemporary Vivaldi’s high spirits. Giovanni Battista Cirri and Giacobbe Basevi Cervetto contribute eloquent gems, the latter with support by Guy Fishman, the Handel & Haydn Society’s principal cellist.
A veritable unknown even among these names, and the only English composer on this recital, Stephen Paxton provides a sonata, originally for two bassoons, which includes a haunting Scots Air. Francesco Barsanti contributes four infectious Scottish tunes, and the recital ends with an intoxicated Tambourin.
The recordings, made by Marlan Barry at the Chapel at West Parish, Andover, Massachusetts, are stunning at high levels.