The present CD is an exceedingly agreeable way to spend some time. The music is gracious and warm hearted, while the performances are richly satisfying. An album of chamber music with guitar inevitably focuses on the guitarist, even when he is not always the dominant member of the ensemble. Agustín Maruri is an extremely likable guitarist.
His tone is light and glowing; his finger work produces a seamless legato. He conveys joy in his music making, which assists him in making everything he does sound easy. He tours internationally with cellist Michael Kevin Jones as half of the Jones Maruri duo, performing repertoire for those two instruments.
Jones is a formidable cellist. I recommend his YouTube videos of highlights from Bach’s Cello Suites, filmed in 2015 in Madrid. Jones has a full, firm tone, and his attacks make his articulation highly decisive. Even when he is not in a starring role in the present program, his firm musical foundation for his colleagues always is evident.
The violinist on this CD, Alban Beikircher, is an eminent German musician. I strongly recommend his CD of Gabriel Fauré’s complete music for violin and piano, featuring the splendid pianist and scholar Roy Howat. Beikircher’s tone is solid and quite substantial; he plays with more determination than sweetness. When he becomes the leading voice in the present compositions, there is no doubting his authority. As for violist Martina Horejsi, all I know about her is that she has been active in Germany and can play up a storm. To have a quartet of such players performing music that is meant to be entertaining is luxury casting indeed.
The guitar part in the Haydn Quartet presented here originally was written for lute. According to the custom of the time, the work might equally have been called a divertimento. The guitar in it has a taste of the Austrian zither. An early work of Haydn, it exudes his warmth and charm.
Maruri plays with a melting lyricism, blending beautifully with the heartfelt string playing. Jacques Pierre Rode’s Trio is a recording premiere. Rode was a violin virtuoso, and that instrument along with the viola have the majority of the melodic material. The guitar in most senses is an accompanist. Beikircher’s playing is especially sprightly, displaying graceful virtuosity in the manner of the style galant. Horejsi’s woody sound is exploited to particular advantage. In Mauro Giuliani’s Serenade, the balance between the three instruments is exquisite, giving Jones an opportunity to be heard to his best advantage. Beikircher plays here with an Italianate flair.
There is a good period instruments recording of the Serenade by guitarist Richard Savino, violinist Monica Huggett, and cellist William Skeen, but it is not as spirited as the present account. Ferdinando Carulli’s Deux solos is another recording premiere. Carulli himself was a guitarist, and that instrument dominates the work. Maruri manages to negotiate its manifold technical hurdles, without losing the basic warmth of his tone.
The CD’s sound engineering is full and glowing, if a little over reverberant. To guitar aficionados, the appeal of this album will be self-evident. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys chamber music with a smile on its face.
Dave Saemann, Fanfare magazine, 2017. (USA).