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GRAMOPHONE (10/2022)
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Reviewer :
 Mark Seow

This album is the result of the MA Competition Bruges, at which part of the first prize was the opportunity to make a recording with Outhere Music. The winner in 2021, gambist Teodoro Baù, accordingly makes what I believe is his debut solo album (though with a little digging I discover it’s not his only competition win). He is accompanied by the Italian harpsichordist Andrea Buccarella. It is strange – and bothersome – that the booklet notes do not include a biography for either performer.

The premise – Corelli’s Op 5 Violin Sonatas played on viola da gamba – is pinned on a manuscript preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (ms Vm76308), which contains a complete transcription of the 12 sonatas of Op 5. Baù writes: ‘There is no doubt that French violists were accustomed to play the Italian repertoire that was fashionable in Paris during the first half of the 18th century.’ But really, I don’t require musicological rationale, as its effects are thrilling. Baù is at his best in the slower, singing movements. Take the Grave that opens Sonata No 6 in A: it’s difficult to imagine a more heartfelt performance. There’s a lovingness to Baù’s sound, gentle yet full, and his bloom is so tenderly and honestly shaped that all I can do is listen in empty awe. The unhurried intimacy of Buccarella’s support is faultless. I find almost equal joy in the Adagio from Sonata No 9 in A, in which Baù mixes depth of sound and shape of line as if he’s painting the Milky Way.

I wish I could write that the album is consistently this good. At first the farfrontedness of the harpsichord in the mix is enjoyable, and Buccarella’s figurations are a jangling joy. But by Sonata No 5 in G minor, it’s a bit too much. Particularly with Buccarella’s propensity for unsparingly full, unspread chords in the faster movements, the balance tends towards brashness. Baù, too, struggles to find light and shade in the more violinistic passages. However, these are small criticisms in the grand scheme of things: glorious music-making, and worth it for the Grave alone.


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