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Brilliant Classics

Ferdinand CARULLI (1770-1841)
Complete Works for Guitar and Pianoforte
Leopoldo Saracino (guitar)
Massimo Palumbo (fortepiano)
Recorded in August 2002 in the Assunta Church, Milan, Italy.
Massimo Palumbo plays an original fortepiano: Felix Gross, Wien 1812.
Leopoldo Saracino plays an original guitar: Gaetano Guadagnini, 1820.
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 92269 [8CDs: 66:50+58:33+67:11+67:33+44:50+57:28+49:52+58:41]

Gran Duo in E minor op.86
Trois Petits Duos op.92
Gran Duo in D major op.70
Trois Valzer op.32
Mélange on Rossiniís themes op.236 n.
Deux Nocturnes op.131
Duo in D major op.37
Trois Sonatines op.196b
Duo in C major op.11
Variations de Beethoven in F major op.169
Nocturne in G major op.127
Gran Duo in A major op.45
Deux Duos sur des thèmes de Rossini op.233
Duo in D major op.134
Duo in C major op.135
Duo in C major op.130
Duo in G major op.151
Choix de douze ouvertures de Rossini - Part One 1:
Cenerentola, ouverture
Bianca e Falliero, ouverture
LíItaliana in Algeri, ouverture
Tancredi, ouverture
Otello, ouverture
LíInganno felice, ouverture
Choix de douze ouvertures de Rossini - Part Two:
Il Barbiere di Siviglia, ouverture
La Gazza Ladra, ouverture
Semiramide, ouverture
Torvaldo e Dorriska, ouverture
Edoardo e Cristina, ouverture
Armida, ouverture
Duo in A major op.189 n.1
Duo in G major op.189 n.2
Duo in D major op. 189 n.3
Duo in A major op.65
Notturno in A major op.208
Rondò in D major
Gran Duo in A major op.63
Grande Marche composée sur Agthe in C major op.161
Grande Marche de Ries in D major op.168
Fantasie composée différents motifs de Fiorella, musique de Auber in A major
Solo in D major op.207 n.1



Influential Neapolitan composer and teacher Ferdinando Carulli originally played the cello before changing to study the guitar. In the late-eighteenth century tutors of the newly established six-stringed guitar were scarce so Carulli was forced to develop his own method for self-instruction. This course of action lead to his writing and publishing in Paris in 1811 the influential Méthode complète de guitar ou lyre which is still in use today, almost two hundred years later.

As with many of his virtuoso compatriots Carulli travelled to northern Europe for employment, eventually, in 1808, settling in Paris which at that time was the musical capital of the world. Carulli was a most prolific composer, writing in the region of four hundred works for solo guitar and also for various other instrumental combinations, which always included the guitar.

On this eight CD boxed set release from Brilliant Classics of the complete works of Carulli for guitar and fortepiano the two soloists have chosen to use authentic instruments, for which the music would have been intended. Furthermore I am thankful to guitarist Leopoldo Saracino and pianist Massimo Palumbo for following period performance practice and recreating that original Carulli sound. But be warned, as it may take some time for the ear to become accustomed to the timbre of the authentic instruments. The sound of the guitar and the fortepiano sometimes overlapped and sounded so similar at times that I could not easily tell which instrument was which. To have used a modern concert-grand piano and a Spanish guitar, their present-day counterparts, would have sounded so very different.

Unlike the music of most of his contemporaries, Carulli composed predominantly in a concertante model in which both instruments play on equal terms using melodic invention as the main direction and focus. The works on this Brilliant Classics release, containing around eight hours of music, do not seem to follow any detectable sequence. Initially I only intended to play a random sample of works from each disc however I was so captivated by the music and the performances that it was a joy to complete the set in its entirety from start to finish.

The performances of both Saracino and Palumbo are commendable throughout showing consistent sensitivity and delightfully engaging playing. On CD 1 the Gran Duos op. 70 and op. 86 must surely rank amongst the most difficult and also the most appealing of Carulliís works and the soloists display the requisite blend of virtuosity and imagination. In homage to the composer, Carulli transcribed several works from the operas of Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868) including the popular Mélange on Rossiniís themes op.236 (CD 2), the Deux Duos sur des thèmes de Rossini op.233 (CD 4) and the substantial Choix de douze ouvertures de Rossini, which at around 103 minutes long in total, is divided into two parts, completely filling both CD 5 and CD 6. Transcriptions of large orchestral and operatic works were extremely popular in Carulliís day as they allowed the public to encounter music they wouldnít normally be able to hear. The three Duos of op. 189 (CD 7) were most likely composed for the use of amateur players. These undemanding pieces are most endearing and are delightfully performed by our two soloists. In these Carulli transcriptions Saracino and Palumbo profitably play in keeping with the spirit and letter of Rossiniís unhurried, solemn, thoughtful and playful tunes and melodies. I was also impressed with the eminently persuasive and precise playing in the noble and significant four movement Gran Duo op.63 (CD 8).

There is so much to enjoy with this Brilliant Classics set. The label continues to go from strength to strength. The recorded sound is clear and well balanced, the packaging is attractive, neat and compact in carton sleeves and the only negative factor is occasionally poor proof-reading in the substantial and informative booklet. I can easily live with that. The astonishingly mature playing of guitarist Leopoldo Saracino and pianist Massimo Palumbo are full of character in near faultless performances of works that are packed with quality and interest.

Michael Cookson

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