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Bylsma, Gibbons captivate with Vivaldi, Bach program



Anner Bylsma, cello and

John Gibbons, harpsichord.

Program of Vivaldi and Bach.

Tsai Performance Center, Nov. 2.


AS I WRITE, I AM LISTENING to cellist Anner Bylsma performing Beethoven's Sonata No. 1 for Piano and Cello, Op. 5, No. 1 (Elektra/Nonesuch 9 79152-2). This is one of my favorite recordings, not only because it casts Beethoven in such an airy, rapturous light, but because it inevitably generates a feeling of happiness and repose. Bylsma is the world's leading performer on original instrument cellos, and his tone never fails to captivate. His sound conveys untold depth, yet he projects it with a freshness and ease which makes it seem effortless.

Last Saturday night he presented a program of Vivaldi and Bach, together with harpsichordist John Gibbons. The three Vivaldi sonatas they performed are indeed remarkable for their invention, conveying operatic and even romantic touches rarely seen elsewhere in Vivaldi's oeuvres. Bylsma chose a relatively straightforward approach, eschewing the more decorative ambience of cellist Christope Coin on his recording of these works with Christopher Hogwood (it is a wonderful recording, but wonderful in different ways). In doing so, Bylsma illuminated the myriad and absorbing nooks and crannies of Vivaldiana, producing smiling sounds that applied balm to many a tired mind.

Bylsma also performed the Bach Suite No. 4 in E flat, BWV 1010, giving it a more intellectual touch than for the Vivaldi, while not losing sight of its humanity. This was intricate, detailed playing, but it was an exercise in song, and one could not but be hooked by his cello, which sung.

John Gibbons also played a solo piece, Bach's Concerto in the Italian Style in F, BWV 971. It was done competently, and not without excitement, but it was overall a bit on the dry side, and did not show Gibbons at his best.