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John Garth was born at Witton le Wear in County Durham, and for many years lived in Durham, organizing public concerts there. This set of Concertos was dedicated to the Duke of York, a cellist of considerable ability, and was followed by sets of sonatas for strings and keyboard and of organ voluntaries. The composer had needed suitable music to demonstrate his own prowess on the cello, as at that time no such pieces had been published in Britain. He first played one of them in 1753 in the Assembly Rooms in Durham , the others following over the next few years. All are in three movements and according to the booklet this is their first recording. Although Gerald Finzi edited No. 2 nearly sixty years ago, the remainder have not been available, as far as I know, since their original publication. They are recorded here in an edition by Gordon Dixon with cadenzas by Richard Tunnicliffe. One oddity is that the title page to the original publication, reproduced in the booklet, refers to them as being for “four violins, one alto viola and basso ripieno”, but the orchestra here has only two violins. Possibly the original issue of two copies of each of the violin parts was simply a relic of the time of the Concerto Grosso, but it would have been interesting to have had the performers’ views on why they did not employ two more violinists – other than the obvious financial considerations.

The lengthy and helpful booklet notes explain the likely origin of the forms used in these works, deriving in part from Avison, his fellow North-Eastern composer, together with the more modern gallant style coming into fashion. C.P.E. Bach may well have been the main influence in terms of their overall form. The general cut of the themes is very typical of the period, but Garth does show considerable powers of invention, avoiding cliché and turning corners with grace and wit. The slow movements are particularly attractive, especially that of No. 2 which may perhaps have been the reason that led Finzi into editing it. The performances are excellent, with Richard Tunnicliffe irresistibly mixing grace and virtuosity. The recording is clear without sounding clinical or fierce. Maybe these discs do not fill a major gap in the range of recorded music, but in performances such as these the present Concertos give immense pleasure.

—John Sheppard