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Juan Crisóstomo ARRIAGA (1806-1826)
Overture, Los esclavos felice
Symphony in D
Carlos SEIXAS (1704-1742)

Sinfonia in B Flat
João de Sousa CARVALHO ((1745-1798)

Overture L’amore industrioso
António Leal MOREIRA (1758-1819)

Sinfonia
Marcos PORTUGAL (1762-1830)

Overture: Il Duca di Foix
Algarve Orchestra/Álvaro Cassuto
Rec. University of the Algarve, Faro, Portugal. 16th – 22nd September 2002.
NAXOS 8.557207 [57:36]

How refreshing to be able to listen to a newly formed chamber orchestra performing music by relatively unknown composers.

This disc of music, that avoids the same weary path so habitually revisited by chamber orchestras, is a revelation and it at once eliminates all the preconceptions and prejudices, which so easily induce weariness and undermine objectivity.

As one might reasonably expect, this disc by the recently established Algarve Orchestra (2002) is devoted to music by some of the unduly neglected, but illustrious, names in composition on the Iberian Peninsula during the 18th and early 19th centuries.

The playing of The Algarve Orchestra is never less than passionate throughout and the ensemble is technically and musically also much more than simply competent. They are in fact able to infuse their performance with the kind of exuberance that can only have its origins in supreme confidence and optimism.

Arriaga, the most recognisable of the names on the disc, and often referred to as the "Spanish Mozart", is represented by two works, the Overture to his opera, Los esclavos felice, and his Symphony in D.

The slow introduction to the overture begins with an attractive innocence, which soon gives way to the kind of wit usually associated with Haydn and an effervescence reminiscent of Rossini. The strings, particularly the violins, are presented with a stern challenge, in which they acquit themselves admirably, with the woodwinds and brass adding welcome splashes of colour to the sound.

The Symphony in D, composed towards the end of Arriaga’s exceedingly short life, maintains both the orchestration and structural boundaries of the classical symphony usually associated with Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven and whilst pretty traditional in this respect at least, there are tantalising glimpses of a burgeoning expressive and romantic talent.

The Algarve Orchestra, under the baton of their conductor, Álvaro Cassuto, gives a persuasive performance.

Carlos Seixas, a prolific composer of Sonatas (he is said to have composed in excess of seven hundred, of which barely a hundred have survived) and esteemed friend of Scarlatti, is represented here by his Sinfonia in B Flat, which is distinctly Italian in style.

The Sinfonia receives a suitably sympathetic and idiomatic performance, with lean and transparent lines in the slow movement and buoyant rhythmic impetus in the outer movements.

João de Sousa Carvalho, António Leal Moreira and Marcos Portugal follow the Seixas, not only chronologically, but also historically, in the development of Portuguese music.

The Overture ‘L’amore industrioso’ by Carvalho, the most eminent Portuguese opera composer of the eighteenth century, like the Arriaga, is exquisitely crafted music, within the traditional structural and expressive boundaries of the Viennese classical tradition.

The Moreira and Portugal, by contrast, betray much more of an Italian influence and receive performances of consummate charm and elegance.

This disc would enrich any respectable collection and I certainly look forward to hearing more from the Algarve Orchestra.

Leon Bosch

 



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