From the 1680s through the 1710s, Rome was one of the major music centers of Europe. Corelli, Handel, and Scarlatti were all active in the city. Their presence, in turn, attracted the best musicians to the Eternal City.

Cardinals Benedetto Pamphill and Pietro Ottoboni were major patrons of this musical activity. Some of the finest cello virtuosi/composers were in their retinues. This release presents some of their music.

Originally released in 2015, “The Cardinals Cellos” presents works by eight of these virtuosi, spanning 24 years. While they wrote music for their instrument, all eight composed oratorios, operas, concerto grossi, and other forms. Giovanni Lullier is the earliest, entering service in 1676. None of his cello works survive. He’s represented by a transcribed aria “Amor di che tu viol.” It’s a charmingly simple work, with an appealing melody with regular phrasing.

The last composer of the line is Giovanni Costanzi, active through 1778. His Sinfonia in D major represents a dramatic change over Lullier’s work. And it anticipates the style of Luigi Boccherini, one of Costanzi’s star pupils.

Marco Ceccato plays with a nice, rounded tone that’s somewhat unusual on a cello of the period. He performs with a very light touch and precise articulation — particularly in the rapid passages. The Accademia Ottoboni have a clean ensemble sound that nicely showcases the solo cello.

The close-mic’d recording gives these modest chamber works an appealing intimacy.

Another fine early music rerelease from Alpha.

Il violoncello del cardinale
Music by Boni, Amadei, Haym, Perroni, Costanzi, Bononcini, and Lulier
Accademia Ottoboni; Marco Ceccato
Alpha 368