Alpha Productions in Paris, not to be confused with Alpha the long-ago state-run label from Belgium, has, since 1999, delivered an unusual and generally outstanding slate of Baroque and early music repertoire. Alpha's packages are distinctive, with design elements drawn from generous details taken from master paintings splashed over thick digipaks that fold out into as many as four panels. To provide something a little extra with its 2003 catalog, Alpha has included a recording by cellist Bruno Cocset and Les Basses Réunies, Suonata à violoncello solo del signor Vivaldi.
The album consists of six of Vivaldi's nine cello sonatas with continuo, RVs 43, 46, 44, 40, 42, and 39, respectively. None of these sonatas want for recorded performances, but Cocset's among the most beautiful to be had at present. Cocset understands these pieces well, and skillfully projects their sense of separateness and variety; he is sweet and sentimental in the Sonata in B flat major, RV 46; gnomic and mysterious in the Sonata in A minor from the Naples Conservatory, RV 44; and tragic and poetic in the Sonata E minor from Count Schönborn's library, RV 40. The second movement of RV 44 has a rock & roll kind of rhythm that Cocset embraces rather than smoothes out. Les Basses Réunies' playing is marvelously colorful, especially with the employment of the Baroque guitar, an instrument seldom used in continuo.
Along with this terrific recording, one gets a full catalog of Alpha Productions' releases and the package design, as usual, is splendid. Unless one has a heart of stone, or at least a general distaste for the music of Antonio Vivaldi, there is no good reason to avoid Suonata à violoncello solo del signor Vivaldi, if one were lucky enough to encounter a copy.