The title of baroque cellist Juliana Soltis’ debut release, “Entrez, le Diable!”, is based on a quote from Hubert le Blanc’s 1740 treatise entitled Defense de la basse de viole, where he disparages the increasingly popular cello as a “miserable canker and a poor Devil”. However, I listened to the disc before I read the informative annotations, and I assumed that the title was due to the fact that these selections are devilishly difficult to play!
Certainly they are virtuoso vehicles that play to Soltis’ strengths: her effortless agility, her control in all registers, and her ability to imbue even the wispiest sonorities with definition and purpose. That’s not so easy to do when keeping vibrato at the bare minimum, yet Soltis brings focused intensity to the long sustained lines in the Lanzetti sonata Adagio, as well as to the exposed double stops in the Grave of the Berteau sonata.
Musically speaking, François Martin’s D major sonata holds the most interest for its rhythmic variety and wild use of harmonics, the latter of which are executed with staggering aplomb. By contrast, the two Jean Barrière sonatas strike me as little more than warmed-over Corelli, with little melodic or harmonic substance. But since Barrière was one of the great cello virtuosos of his day, the music naturally abounds with technical challenges, all of which Soltis sails through with stylish insouciance. Her colleagues Adaiha MacAdam-Somer, Lucas Harris, and Justin Murphy-Mancini provide vibrant and sensitive support at every turn, proving much more than mere accompanists.
The superb, well-balanced engineering adds further value to an intelligently put together program that baroque cello fans will savor.