While J.S. Bach’s Suites for solo cello are, by definition, closely identified with Mstislav Rostropovich as the supreme cellist of his time, the B flat concerto of Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach represents a more unusual departure. It is programmed here with two concertos in D major by Italian composers of the elder Bach’s generation, Antonio Vivaldi and Giuseppe Tartini.
From the list of his surviving compositions and the number of their sources, Firmin Caron was clearly highly esteemed in the second half of the fifteenth century, particularly as a composer of French chansons. Most sources of his works are of Italian provenance; nonetheless the oldest French sources, from around 1470, leave little doubt that the composer himself was a Frenchman. Born around 1440 in Amiens and probably trained at the choir school, he developed his original musical language there under the stylistic influence of Guillaume Dufay.
These three magnificent works belong in the repertoire of cellists everywhere. They are full of Villa-Lobos’ signature exotic instrumental textures, folk-like melodies, and abundant invention. They are also harder than hell to play, and difficult to balance. Villa-Lobos was a cellist himself, and loved the instrument’s low, dark register. Penetrating his dense orchestration without making the instrument sound like a dying cow is just one of the many challenges facing cellists attempting to come to grips with this marvelously expressive music, though recordings can solve this problem with sensitive microphone placement. Antonio Meneses understands both the music and its performance problems, and his lower register manages to sound gruff without undue signs of bovine distress. He’s helped by some very sensitive accompaniments; Pérez projects the music’s lush timbres without laying it on too thick.