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Guitar Quintet Op. 143 [22:36]
Aaron Jay KERNIS (b. 1960)
100 Greatest Dance Hits [15:30]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Guitar Quintet No. 4 in D Major ‘Fandango’ [18:52]
Jason Vieaux (guitar)
Escher Quartet
rec. 2015, Sauder Hall, Goshen College, USA
AZICA ACD71328 [57:18]

This is an interesting disc of music for guitar and string quartet by three composers from quite distinct generations and musical genres, there being about two hundred years between the first and last work presented here. Despite this, the three works sit well together and the result is very entertaining.

My main interest lay in the first work by Castelnuovo-Tedesco, the longest here and dating from 1950. I do have another recording, but I was never really impressed by the recording; this one is much better as the balance between the guitar and the strings is natural and well-managed. The work itself is one of my favourite chamber pieces by the composer; the beautiful slow movement and the impetuous finale make it memorable.

There is a total shift in style between the works by Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Aaron Jay Kernis; Kernis’ modernist outlook is seemingly at odds with that of the more neo-romantic Castelnuovo-Tedesco but the juxtaposition of styles works well, even if it is difficult to believe that there is only forty-three years between the two compositions. This work is a strange combination of parody and humour; the humour is clearly in evidence in the final movement where the performers are called upon to shout confirmation of the work’s title towards the conclusion of the work. There is a complex, yet approachable, musical progression in the piece and the development of the modern melodic lines is expertly done.

The final piece is the best known, Boccherini’s Guitar Quintet No. 4 with its famous ‘Fandango’ finale with its castanet; sadly, the player is not credited. It is thought to have been composed for Frederick William III King of Prussia and sent to him in 1797. This ever-popular work is expertly played here; its popular folk like elements of the music are exploited to the full, making for a wonderful, engaging performance.

Jason Vieaux and the Escher Quartet are excellent throughout this recording; there is a real sense of ensemble and the players’ enjoyment. Their performance of each of the works is well-balanced; the guitar and strings are in perfect harmony and none of the players is placed too far forward. The recorded sound and acoustic are very good and the notes are informative, making this a very enjoyable disc.

Stuart Sillitoe 

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