LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Zarambeques
WORKS: 17th- & 18th-century Spanish dance music
PERFORMER: Armoniosi Concerti/Juan Carlos Rivera (guitar), Consuelo Navas (theorbo), Juan Miguel Nieto (guitar)
CATALOGUE NO: HMI 987030
This collection reflects the extraordinary popularity of the guitar in 17th- and early 18th-century Spain. Played by people from all walks of life, the instrument inspired a wide range of repertoire, including intricately decorated, contrapuntal art music, hypnotic sets of variations over repeated harmonic patterns and popular dances characterised by vigorous rhythms and percussive strumming – like the well-known fandango and folìa.
Armoniosi Concerti’s programme cleverly shows how these art and popular traditions fused, and how influences from France, Italy, Latin America and Portugal infiltrated Spanish music without diluting its distinctive style. Juan Carlos Rivera offers some poised and stylish interpretations of solo works by two of the leading Spanish Baroque guitarists – Santiago de Murcia and Francisco Guerau – and this intimate, introspective sound-world is offset by more exuberant ensemble numbers which revivify contemporary descriptions of ‘rowdy and lively strumming and dancing’. But the group resists the temptation to exaggerate the music’s earthiness, maintaining throughout a sense of gravitas and control in keeping with the courtly atmosphere in which so much of this repertoire was performed. The recorded sound is excellent, making this all in all a most attractive disc. Kate Bolton