The Academy of Ancient Music performs Castello’s Sonate concertate in stil moderno and Book I

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COMPOSERS: Castello
LABELS: AAM
ALBUM TITLE: Castello
WORKS: Sonate concertate in stil moderno, Book I
PERFORMER: Academy of Ancient Music/ Richard Egarr (harpsichord, organ)
CATALOGUE NO: Records AAM 005

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There’s an unusual buzz attending Richard Egarr’s latest release. Not least, it plugs a gaping hole in the catalogue; with nearly half of the sonatas comprising Dario Castello’s 1621 Libro Primo allotting a starring role to the dulcian – that edgy forerunner of the bassoon – the ‘buzz’ is distinctly palpable! With the inexhaustibly characterful playing of Benny Aghassi, the dulcian’s star shines brightly indeed, no mere subversive ‘buffo’ guest invited to a wind-enriched ‘concertate’ feast that includes Josué Meléndez’s eloquent cornetto, and Susan Addison’s expressively fruity trombone.

For music that quickly underwent several reprints, gained entry to libraries as far-flung as Lisbon and Kraków, and was readily available for purchase in London and Naples, its composer remains a frustratingly elusive figure. It’s likely that he headed the wind band at St Mark’s, Venice during Monteverdi’s time as maestro di capella, and his music embodies that Venetian gusto, eminently sophisticated yet tinged with an exquisitely judged soulfulness, that left an indelible mark on the visiting Heinrich Schütz.

Egarr fields an octet of all the talents, wonderfully in tune both with Castello and each other. The result, gloriously idiomatic, beautifully recorded, is a truly life-enhancing set. ‘Libro Secondo’, promised for later in the year, is definitely one to look forward to.

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Paul Riley