Quartetto Ascanio explores Paganini’s influence

This release, in part, shows the direct influence Paganini had on chamber music. The Quartetto Ascanio begins with music by Camillo Sivori, Paganini’s only known pupil.

They continue with a quartet by Giovanni Serra, another teacher of Sivori. Also included is a quartet by Carlo Andrea Gambini. He was a fellow Genoese violinist and composer, and a contemporary of Sivori.

The Quartetto Ascanio has a beautifully blended ensemble sound. Despite the Paganini associations, these works push the technical limits of the instruments.

Instead, the composers seemed to focus on creating attractive, lyrical melodies. It’s the singing quality of these pieces that comes through in the performances.

Serra dedicated his Quartet No. 4 to Camillo Sivori. It has plenty for the first violin to do. But unlike a quartet brillante, it’s not for solo violin plus three. Rather, the other three instruments are on more equal footing with the first violin.

Gambini’s Quartet in E minor is an interesting work. To my ears, stylistically it seemed somewhere between Mendelssohn and Schumann. And that’s not a bad place to be. Gambini knew how to write for strings. This quartet sounds like it could be as satisfying to play as it is to listen to.

All the works receive world recording premieres with this release. This unexplored repertoire is both pleasurable and substantial. I enjoyed the music the first time I heard the album. And I appreciated the skills of these composers with each additional hearing.

Recommended for chamber music enthusiasts. And anyone else who appreciates a well-turned melody.

Sivori, Gambini, Serra
Chamber music in Genoa after Nicolo Paganini
Quartetto Ascanio
Dynamic CDS 7905

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