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Geminiani - Alison McGillivray - Early Music Today

31 October 2005
Early Music Today
Mark Argent

A few months ago I ran into the general manager of the Academy of Ancient Music (AAM). He was enthusing about a new CD by Alison McGillivray, who had been the AAM's principal cellist for six years until she moved to the English Concert, with David McGuinness (harpsichord), Eligio Quinteiro (alto guitar), and Joseph Crouch, who succeeded McGillivray at AAM last year.
The CD, of Geminiani's cello sonatas, revives the 18th-century practice of publishing on subscription - for similar practical reasons now as then. 50 subscribers each contributed £50 to the costs of producing the CD, had their names listed in the CD booklet, and received two copies with the chance to buy further copies at a discount. The subscribers are mostly friends, family and professional colleagues of the performers. One interesting offshoot is the way in which many of those have started referring to it as 'our CD'.

Apart from opening the door to similar projects in the future, this support has effectively covered the costs of the musicians' fees. Like many genuinely interesting early-music recordings, this repertoire is not guaranteed to be a commercial success. Yet the music itself is excellent: the involvement of the subscribers has brought to fruition a recording which could easily have remained a pipedream.

There's a slight French accent to these sonatas, which were first published in Paris, and makes the inclusion of baroque guitar particularly apt, especially as Geminiani played its English cousin in addition to the violin. The danger with cello sonatas is that the texture can by muddy, but very effective harpsichord realisations and the guitar playing well above the pitch of the cellos means there's no hint of that. Instead, the use of different combinations of continuo instruments and the inclusion of a handful of pieces for solo harpsichord produce a variety of textures, and some superbly expressive and imaginative playing plucks these sonatas from obscurity to make them a really persuasive musical experience.

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Alison McGillivrayAlison McGillivray
Geminiani: Sonatas for Violoncello & Basso Continuo, Op. 5Geminiani: Sonatas for Violoncello & Basso Continuo, Op. 5