Garth was a Durham man and an active proponent of music in his county. He was also an able cellist who published his own set of Six Concertos in 1760 though they were certainly written before that; he’d performed an unidentified concerto as early as 1753. They’re all written in a conventional three-movement form, with a ritornello structure, and show the strong influence of C.P.E. Bach and maybe even of Haydn in places; there are also debts to his English contemporary Avison. Appropriately the performers here are members of The Avison Ensemble.
An adept composer, he had an especially fine ear for lyric slow movements, which he vests with considerable gravity and breadth of utterance. The D major is a case in point and is followed by a buoyant and extrovert Gigue. The Affetusoso central movement of the B flat major (No.2 – as No.4 is also in the same key) has a strongly dignified profile that embraces almost Italianate lyricism in places. The finale of this concerto is by contrast witty, athletic and sports an energetic pizzicati episode full of incident and ear catching turns of phrase. The Andante of the A major has both elegance and gravity in the C.P.E. Bach mould.
The orchestration throughout is sound, unimpeachable, and the small ensemble forces – two violins, viola, cello, bass, and harpsichord – offer Richard Tunnicliffe sterling support. This is especially true in the rather advanced opening movement of the Fifth Concerto in D minor, which seems to me the most forward looking of all the concerti, and a thoroughly distinguished composition. As for the single most beautiful movement perhaps one could suggest the Siciliana of the last concerto in G major for its melancholy beauty clothed in the gentlest beauty.
The recording was made in The Picture Gallery, Paxton House, Berwick upon Tweed and it sounds highly sympathetic and attractive. Tunnicliffe bears the soloistic responsibilities lightly. His accomplishment is to characterise these concertos with individuality, to bring them to life with a strong sense of their character but without exaggerating their relatively modest span. He also manages to do so with real flair and technical surety.