Nicola Porpora / Giovanni Batista Costanzi: 6 Cello Sonatas

Adriano Fazio cello, Katarzyna Solecka violin, Anna Camporini cello, Pedro Alcacar theorbo, Lorenzo Profita harpsichord
Brilliant Classics 95408

Porpora is chiefly and increasingly known for his operatic compositions, and more specifically his work with and for the great operatic castrati Caffarelli and Farinelli. Working chiefly in and around Naples, the full extent of his abilities and the superlative quality of the musical scene there at the time has recently become much more apparent, and these lovely cello sonatas confirm that chamber music played an important part in this very dynamic artistic centre. Such was Porpora’s degree of specialization as a vocal composer and teacher that he called upon the virtuoso cellist Costanzi to ensure that he was writing idiomatically for strings. Notwithstanding Costanzi’s undoubtedly important input, this is overtly vocal music in nature, and even the more rapid virtuosic episodes recall the throat-stretching demands Porpora placed on his singers. These ‘sonatas’ are structurally idiosyncratic in that they are really duets for violin and cello with continuo, the violin providing a simple melodic framework and cello exploring the music more profoundly in concertante  episodes. This may sound very odd, but actually the pieces sound perfectly natural in performance. Adriano Fazio and Kataryna Solecka on cello and violin respectively play with a lovely rapport and with an easy lyricism and musicality, conveying well their justified enthusiasm for this expressive and original music. It is exciting to find the exploration of music-making in baroque Naples extending beyond the field of opera, and unearthing such intriguing treasures.

D. James Ross