Review of Aura Musicale’s KUSSER Festin des Muses by Michael Carter for Fanfare Magazine

KUSSER Festin des Muses: Suite No. 6 in g; Suite No 5 in F; Suite No 4 in D • Aura Musicale (period instruments) • HUNGAROTON HCD 32337 (62:46)

“Aura Musicale was founded just over a decade ago by young Hungarians who had been performing in other period-instrument bands. Over the years, their repertoire has grown to embrace rarely heard music composed between 1500 and 1800. I own several Hungaroton recordings by this ensemble of music by Valentini, Cirri, and Gluck and have found all to be exceptional in both repertoire and performance quality. This set of suites from Festin des Muses is no exception. It is a brilliantly performed collection, characterized by a vigorous approach, sparkling articulation, and immaculate ensemble.

Kusser’s music will never attain the pride of place held by the orchestral suites of Bach, nor will it challenge the incredible variety found in the suites of Telemann and other German followers of the Lullian tradition. It will, however, fall easily and pleasantly on one’s ear and as a result command respect for both Kusser and his craft. Perhaps in the near future, Hungaroton and Aura Musicale will again combine their resources for more of this interesting repertoire.”

This article originally appeared in Issue 29:5 (May/June 2006) of Fanfare Magazine.

CD Review by Brian Robins of GLUCK Trio Sonatas by Aura Musicale

GLUCK Trio Sonatas: No. 1 in C; No. 2 in g; No. 3 in A; No. 4 in B♭; No. 5 in E♭; No. 6 in F; No. 7 in F • Aura Musicale (period instruments) • HUNGAROTON HCD 32158 (74:09)

“…in their more sensitive moments, as in the enchanting B♭ Sonata, Aura Musicale members show themselves perfectly capable of captivating the ear with affecting and musical playing. The disc as a whole rates a qualified recommendation.”

This article originally appeared in Issue 27:6 (July/Aug 2004) of Fanfare Magazine.

Review of C.P.E. Bach cello concertos

“(This super-budget box set (BRILLIANT CLASSICS 92198) is worth buying for) these C.P.E. Bach versions of the cello concertos alone; the interpretations are really exceptional.

Baroque cellist Balázs Máté is well-respected performer on the European period instrument scene and this must be one of his finest recordings.

In the first movement Allegro assai of the concerto in A minor Wq. 170 we can hear the soloist make light work of the considerable virtuoso demands.

His bold tone and expressive poetry throughout the concertos are exceedingly appealing.(…) Máté’s sovereign interpretation gives increased passion and refinement together with an improved tone.”

CD Review by Michael Carter CIRRI Cello Concertos

CIRRI Cello Concertos, op. 14: No 1 in a; No 2 in D; No 3 in G; No 4 in B♭; No 5 in F; No 6 in C • Balázs Máté (vc), cond; Aura Musicale (period instruments)•HUNGAROTON 32125-26 (2 CDs: 95:31)

When one thinks of cello concertos from the pre-Classical and Classical periods, generally Haydn is the first name that comes to mind. Further contemplation will no doubt resurrect the name of Boccherini, and the more knowledgeable music lover will supplement the list with the names of C. P. E. Bach and even Carl Stamitz. A few others will speak on behalf of Leopold Hoffman or Anton Kraft. To that brief list should be appended the once respected and widely recognized name of Giovanni Battista Cirri (1724–1808).

An Italian by birth and training, Cirri—like many European musicians and composers—eventually made his way to England, specifically London. Cirri’s contemporary reputation was exceptional and London was fertile ground for musicians and composers seeking fame and fortune. Public concerts began on a small scale in London in the 1670s, later evolving into larger and more formal affairs, including The Professional Concerts, the series held at the Pantheon, and the Bach-Abel concerts. Composers Carl Friedrich Abel and Johann Christian Bach, the latter being the youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach, jointly managed the last. The English public was ripe for the latest musical trends from the continent and the composers just as eager to sate their appetites.

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, venues such as the Hanover Square Rooms and London’s fashionable pleasure gardens—Vauxhall, Marylebone, and Ranelagh—were fertile ground for native and European composers seeking additional exposure for their work. Along with the transverse flute, the cello was one of the most popular solo instruments of the time and Cirri was quick to be numbered among the instrument’s celebrated and gifted performers. Cirri participated in the eight-year-old Mozart’s first concert in the British capital in 1764 and was also a regular performer in the Bach-Abel series. He returned to Italy in the mid-1780s and remained there for the rest of his life.

The half-dozen cello concertos that constitute Cirri’s op. 14 were composed during his almost two decades in London and were engraved there in 1780; they bear witness to his twin reputations as virtuoso and composer. Each is scored for a string ensemble of two violins and bass with continuo—ad libitum horns are included in the First and Fifth Concertos—and is in the cookie cutter or standard three-movement form. While these works in no way approach the virtuosity found in Boccherini’s concertos or those of Haydn, they do surpass the average concerto of the era in both content and variety, and offset the deficiency by their undeniable appeal and Italianate grace. The opening and slow movements are well proportioned, and while they break no new ground, they display Cirri’s ability to expertly juxtapose bravura and cantilena. The finales are in rondo form but the material is somewhat varied, ranging from the galant to the rustic. Some of the episodes seem to conjure images of the Irish fiddlers that Cirri no doubt encountered during his years in the English capital.

Balázs Máté is an excellent soloist and advocate for this obscure repertoire. His quasi-vocal tone is rich and full, and in the higher positions it impresses as well, lacking a thin and wiry quality. Máté’s deft and confident execution leaves nothing to be desired. As for Hungarian ensemble Aura Musicale, it is not a new kid on the block, but it is among the period-instrument movement’s younger members. Founded in 1995, the ensemble has quickly risen in stature and is now among the most respected with numerous festival performances and much critical acclaim under its belt. Its playing is alert and polished as well as generous in energy and rhythmic impetus. There is also an enviable sense of give-and-take arising from the dialogues with Máté.

What emerges in the end is a set of concertos that makes one wonder why these works haven’t made it to disc before. Even though they are a bit shy of the benchmark established by Haydn and Boccherini, these concertos are fine examples of their composer’s craft and certainly worth the effort to locate and own.

This article originally appeared in Issue 26:6 (July/Aug 2003) of Fanfare Magazine.

New Music-Weekly review of Aura Musicale

“Well-known compositions sound brand new to me when played by Balázs Máté…The “aura” of Aura musicale is excellent and makes all their music a new experience. The “aura” (breeze) the group breathes into our musical life is fresh and vernal, making it worthy of Vivaldi’s piece.”

Review of Giuseppe Valentini – 7 Bizzarrie Per Camera Op. 2.

Aura musicale has deliberately chosen a slightly raw but vigorous and suggestive style of playing.

This rawness and energy lend authenticity to this CD, since contemporary performances of Valentini’s pieces may well have been very similar to this.

Music was not a pure artistic pleasure for snobbish people, but a ritual, which unified rapture, vitality, precisely designed structures, improvisation, virtuosity etc.

Aura musicale is capable of reviving many of these things.

How refreshing that these young musicians have not yet been corrupted by routine and the dull spirit of hackneyed clichées!”

Performances including Schmelzer & Biber.

“The members of the ensemble delight in experimenting with musical effects. So their performance reflects the astoundingly comic ideas Baroque composers, such as the noise of sabre-rattling in Schmelzer or the whoop of the night-watchman in Biber”

Aura Musicale Review

“All preconceptions concerning early music ensembles were like blown away the moment the first note sounded…Their performance had a fascinating translucency: each part was given a clear dynamic shape, and all the musicians played with the conscientiousness of being part of a polyphonic structure.”