Though in his day he was recognized as both a composer and cellist, Jean Barriere arguably excelled far more as a performer. His total published output numbers only 34 sonatas–24 for cello and five each for viol and harpsichord. And given how little invention is displayed here–six selections from his first four books of cello sonatas–Barriere’s style hardly can be described as original. It’s mostly Italian/French–Corellian with occasional hints of Bach. What Barriere does do astonishingly well, however, is present fellow cellists with a plethora of flashy technical challenges guaranteed to test the limits of their virtuosity.
While in the second-movement Allegros Barriere allows occasional suggestions of the displays to follow, he regularly waits until the final movements before the fun really begins. Heaven help the poor cellist who has to negotiate these complex multiple stops, arpeggiated chords, and numerous rising and descending 16th-note scales! Cellist Bruno Cocset and the members of the French period-instrument ensemble Les Basses Reunies rise to every one of Barriere’s numerous challenges, delivering expert performances that equal or better the few duplications David Simpson and colleagues offer on their likewise rewarding Barriere recital for Solstice. Recommended, especially to chamber music fans of this period who enjoy simply being wowed by virtuosity for its own sake.