Early Music News

John Garth (1721-1810), organist, virtuoso cellist and concert promoter, published these concertos in 1760 but had evidently played one in Durham as early as 1753. The music is attractive, inventive and skilfully crafted, in an up-to-date ‘pre-classical’ idiom — which might seem surprising for English concertos written in the decade before J. C. Bach’s arrival in London. But we are coming to recognize that England wasn’t stuck in a Handelian time-warp in the 1750s: the new style had been pioneered by Giuseppe Sammartini (who died in London in 1750), and published concertos by such composers as Johann Stamitz and C. P. E. Bach were widely available. Garth’s concertos will bear comparison with anything of the time from Mannheim or Vienna, and are a real gift to cellists. They should be much better known. The concertos are beautifully played by Richard Tunnicliffe, very stylishly accompanied by a one-to-a-part group — for which three cheers! — who make as full a sound in the tuttis as many a bigger ensemble. It just shows that you don’t need anachronistically large forces to do justice to music of this kind. More cheers for Tunnicliffe’s excellent cadenzas and some tasteful ornamentation on the repeats. I strongly recommend these highly enjoyable discs.

—Richard Maunder