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Gaetano BRUNETTI (1744 - 1798): "Divertimenti"

Concerto 1700

rec: August 2020, Cercedilla (ES)
1700 Classics - 170004 (© 2020) (54'03")
Liner-notes: E/D/F/ES
Cover & track-list

Divertimento in d minor (L 136); Divertimento in d minor (L 142); Divertimento in E flat (L 130); Divertimento in E flat (L 133); Divertimento in G (L 127); Divertimento in B flat (L 140)

Daniel Pinteño, violin; Isabel Juárez, viola; Ester Domingo, cello

Although some of his symphonies are available on disc, the Spanish composer Gaetano Brunetti is still hardly known among the music lovers at large. His name seldom appears on the programmes of orchestras and chamber music ensembles, although he has left a considerable oeuvre. It comprises vocal and instrumental music, but the latter category is by far the largest, as most of his vocal works have been lost.

The liner-notes to the recording under review here mention several reasons why Brunetti has received relatively little attention. One of them is that his music - and Spanish music of his time in general - is considered being not in line with the fashion of the time. As Raúl Angulo Díaz summarises this view: "[The] music made in the Iberian Peninsula is a late echo, often weak and even distorted, of the great centers of European modernity." Brunetti's music has often been seen "as an unoriginal imitation of what was produced in the great European capitals, such as Paris, London, or Vienna". Moreover, the fact that little of Brunetti's music was published during his lifetime did prevent it from being disseminated among musical amateurs. Most of his output has been preserved in manuscript.

In his time, Brunetti was quite an important figure in the Spanish music scene. He was born in 1744 in Fano, a city on the Adriatic coast, which was then under the sovereignty of the Papal States. In 1760 at the latest he moved to Spain with his parents, and in 1767 he entered the service of the Royal Chapel as violinist. In 1770 he was appointed violin teacher of the Prince of Asturias, the future King Charles IV. In this position he was responsible for the composition of music which was to be played at the gatherings of his employer's academies, but also the selection of the repertoire and the musicians to play it. In 1789 Charles was crowned King, and Brunetti was given the post of musician of the Royal Chamber. In 1796 he was made music master of the Royal Chamber.

The music which is the subject of this recording is part of a large repertoire of chamber music, which is almost exclusively for strings, from duets to sextets. String trios take an important place in Brunetti's oeuvre: he composed 52 such pieces. They come in two different scorings: the 29 pieces for two violins and bass are called trios, whereas the 23 works for violin, viola and cello are called divertimenti. As Charles was an amateur violinist, the trios may have been intended for performance by Brunetti and Charles. Some of the divertimenti were written for Charles' chamber, whereas a set of eighteen, divided into three series of six each, was very likely written for the XIIth Duke of Alba, Fernando de Silva y Álvarez de Toledo (1714-1776), who played the violin and the viola, but had a special liking of the latter. This may well explain the scoring with viola rather than a second violin. The Duke's musical inventory includes pieces by the leading composers of the time, among them Corselli, Boccherini, Abel and Haydn, but also some older stuff, such as pieces by Vivaldi and Geminiani. However, Brunetti is best represented, with around 138 pieces.

The six divertimenti performed here by Concerto 1700, are taken from the above-mentioned set of eighteen. As is to be expected from music of a diverting nature, each piece consists of two movements. The first is in a slow (larghetto) or modest (andante, andantino) tempo, the second in a fast tempo (allegro [con molto], allegretto). The first movement of the Divertimento in d minor is a series of variations, the Divertimento in E flat closes with a tempo di minuetto. The instruments are treated in different ways. They often follow their own path, but there are also episodes in which two of them move in parallels. The bass (cello) is sometimes acting as the foundation of the ensemble, but elsewhere it is treated on equal footing with the other two instruments.

String trios gained quite some popularity during the last quarter of the 18th century, but are today less frequently performed than string quartets, which is regrettable. Brunetti's divertimenti performed here are substantial contributions to the genre, and it is a real shame that they are hardly known. There is really no dull moment here. This is diverting music of fine quality, and that comes well off here due to the engaging and lively playing of Concerto 1700. I have encountered this ensemble twice before, and in both cases it made an excellent impression. Its qualities are confirmed here.

I hope that more of Brunetti's chamber music will make it to disc in the near future. I also look forward to the next recording of this fine ensemble.

Johan van Veen (© 2022)

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