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Kazuhito Yamashita and the Tokyo String Quartet : Guitar Quintets : CD

CASTELNUOVO – TEDESCO: Quintet Op143: BOCCHERINI: Quintet No6 G450; Quintet No4 G448.

Kazuhito Yamashita and the Tokyo String Quartet

RCA Victor Red Seal : – RD 60421

Mario Castelnuovo – Tedesco was one of the 20th Century composers who were encouraged by Andres Segovia to write for an instrument they couldn’t play. Many took up the challenge, but hardly any of them wrote quite as significantly for our beloved instrument as did this Italian -born composer. His guitar works number more than 30 opuses, some of these being a huge number of separate pieces under one opus. His one excursion into the Quintet for guitar and string quartet, his Op`143 has been recorded many times since its birth in 1950.Its four movements are full of contrast, and are alternatively serious in content and light – hearted. The opening Allegro , dance – like and full of humour is then followed by a very emotive and darkly hued Andante Mesto that is the heart of the work. The Scherzo that is the 3rd movement begins with some descending trills before the guitar enters with a chord – based tune that leaps around, belying just how difficult it actually is to play, for that is one thing that Yamashita never has a problem with, namely the difficulty of the piece he is playing, for nothing Castelnuovo -Tedesco wrote could ever be classed as easy to play, wonderful though it all is. The fast and furious Finale, an Allegro con Fuoco never lets up and brings this substantial work to a very convincing close.

The two Boccherini Quintets are part of a set of twelve that he wrote, but however not all of which have survived to this day. These two are both arrangements from other works but you would never know from the musicianship or the writing as they sound utterly convincing in these versions. The Quintet No6 is in four movements. The opening Allegro is warm and friendly and the Andantino Lento second movement is romantic with occasional serious moments. The Tempo di Minuetto is light – hearted, full of momentary drama, but nevertheless remaining a fun movement, and a contrast to the previous Andantino .The final Allegretto brings the piece to a significant close in an optimistic way.

The 4th Guitar quintet G448 is a different style entirely.. It only has 3 movements for starters and beginning as it does with a gentle Pastorale it almost feels as if the ‘real’ first movement has been lost! The second movement marked Allegro Maestoso is much more upbeat and more of the style of an opening movement than a second one. Full of agility and declamatory chord writing it is lively and strong and shows off the individual instruments wonderfully well, and not just the guitar playing by Yamashita, that is always first rate. The final movement begins seriously again, with a Grave Assai and for a moment you feel that you are witnessing a three -movement piece where the outer two movements are slow and serious, but such is not the case here, because before too long the Grave Assai turns into a Fandango, which gives the final movement the right sort of upbeat feel that it needs for a confident conclusion. At the end there is even a moment where castanets enter, giving the piece a very suitably Spanish styled ending.

This is a lovely trio of pieces for this rewarding line up of players. For me the Castelnuovo – Tedesco is the cream of the crop, but the 2 Boccherini Quintets are entertaining works also, and show how overlooked he is sometimes as a composer. Altogether this makes for a fine recording, some excellent performances and if the repertoire appeals, than this is a set you should consider trying to get.

Chris Dumigan

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