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Vicente BASET (1719-1764)
Symphonies - Madrid 1753
Apertura a piu stromenti (Bas-7) [7:00]
Apertura a piu stromenti (Bas-2) [7:01]
Sinfonia a piu stromenti (Bas-3) [5:44]
Obertura a piu stromenti (Bas-9) [5:52]
Apertura a piu stromenti (Bas-6) [5:59]
Obertura a piu stromenti (Bas-12) [5:59]
Obertura a dos violines, viola y bajo (Bas-4) [5:37]
Apertura a piu stromenti (Bas-5) [6:30]
Obertura a piu strumenti (Bas-11) [7:46]
Apertura a piu stromenti de violín y violongelo obligatto (Bas-8) [7:20]
Obertura a piu stromenti (Bas-10) [6:42]
Forma Antiqva/Aarón Zapico
rec. 2020, Estudio Uno, Colmenar Viejo, Spain
WINTER & WINTER 910 266-2 [71:30]

You will be forgiven for not having heard of Vicente Baset or the works on this CD, all of which are world première recordings. Aarón Zapico’s idiosyncratic booklet notes tell us that Baset was baptised in the church of San Esteban in Valencia, third son of a farmer. His agricultural destiny was derailed by the marriage of his sister to Pedro Antoneli, a violinist who it seems is likely to have set the young Vicente onto a musical path that seems to have focussed largely on working in theatre.

The rhetorical energy of the music in this collection certainly indicates theatrical influence, as well as exposure to a wide variety of musical fashions and styles of the time. Consisting of eleven symphonies (a twelfth has yet to be found), these scores were preserved in the library of Baron Carl Leuhusen, who was secretary to the Swedish Ambassador in Spain from 1752 to 1755. These pieces therefore form a kind of musical snapshot of taste and style in Madrid in the early 1750s, and their recent discovery will be of great interest to musicologists as well as providing a vibrant and entertaining recording.

These are colourful and well recorded performances with plenty of flourish and verve, including touches such as castanets in the final Minué of the second symphony in the programme, and some wildly folk-like violin playing in the following Sinfonia a piu stromenti, that has touches of Vivaldi in its writing. Guitar makes a solo appearance in track 13, and there are little surprises all over the place. Aarón Zapico has dedicated much care and attention to these performances: “Like almost all the music of his period, Vicente Baset's symphonies require the active involvement of the performer. The score is in a sense naked despite the occasional and brief dynamic indications such as forte or piano, solo or tutti, or the corresponding tempo and affect indications at the beginning of each movement. It is necessary that the interpreter makes decisions, that he or she gets involved in the creation of this work. … The first violin surprises from time to time with free cadences on the marked fermatas, wouldn’t Baset himself want to flaunt his skills? I adopt the composer's intentions and new soli and tutti appear, giving homogeneity to the whole; articulations are expressed in the form of sighs, large phrases and short and painful-sounding notes; I colour the score here and there with dynamics, imagining a non-existent text...”

In other words, this is by no means a dry and academic revival of some dusty manuscripts, but a valid if inevitably speculative interpretation of how these pieces might have been presented in their day. A sprinkling of showmanship never did any harm, and in any case this is a set of performances that also has plenty of nuance and sensitivity, the lyrical, sometimes aria-like nature of many of the slow movements providing further ways for the violin to shine. Baset has absorbed some of C.P.E. Bach’s adventurous rhythmic interruptions if not quite his harmonic extremes, but if you like the character of Carl Philipp Emanuel with some Spanish and Italian character thrown in then this will suit you very well indeed. Presentation for this disc is nicely done, and the recording is detailed and involving if not having the widest of stereo imagery.

Dominy Clements

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