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Shirley Hunt is the sister of the mezzo- soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson who died in 2006 at the tragically early age of 52; this recording is dedicated to her memory. Shirley Hunt plays a mid-18th-century cello and a viola da gamba after an English 17th-century instrument by William Addison. Hunt approaches Bach’s music with unhurried naturalness, avoiding exaggerated gestures. Her simple eloquence may on occasion lack expressive depth, yet that very simplicity well suits the character of the Allemande and the nobility of the Sarabande of the E flat Suite. As for the opening preludes of both suites, Hunt allows them more breathing space than many of her competitors do. Sometimes, in faster dances and ‘galanteries’, her bowing obscures notational details, but it is a very small price to pay for playing which is warmly communicative. Her intonation is dependable in all but a handful of instances and her feeling for gesture enlivens almost every dance movement.

Centrally placed in Hunt’s programme is the G minor Sonata for viola da gamba and harpsichord obbligato. Here she is partnered by harpsichordist Ian Pritchard in a performance redolent of expressive nuance. The sublime Adagio is beautifully sustained and, if I have a criticism to make, it is only that I feel that the harpsichord is not afforded quite as much prominence as it deserves in what is a dialogue. Otherwise, the recorded sound is very good indeed, naturally resonant and with a clear, deep perspective. I look forward to the promised remaining volumes.

Nicholas Anderson Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing