Dance: Jason Vieaux, Escher Quintet

The sun is out, the temperature is climbing into the 30s, and a new disc from guitarist Jason Vieaux and Escher Quartet is a perfect summery discovery. Released on the Azica label, it’s called Dance.

The (rather long) name of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) was a new one to me – but the opening guitar quintet by this Italian composer is an absolute delight. Warm and witty, with plenty of rhythmic vigour and harmonic sweetness, it is precisely the right injection of Mediterranean sunshine to go with the balmy weather. The mellow timbre of guitar fits in with bright strings surprisingly well. What a find this composer is – and, I might reflect, how under-rated the guitar repertoire is.

Contrasting this wonderful work is something newer and something older. Aaron Jay Kernis’ 1993 piece 100 Greatest Dance Hits is a reflection on 90s pop music styles, although he confessed that while composing it ‘the sounds of 70s music rose to the surface most strongly’. Despite the name it is only 4 movements long – a fun novelty, and it even ends with a bit of beatboxing.

The disc then takes us back to Mediterranean heat, only that of the 18th century. If the genteel mannerisms of Boccherini’s ‘Fandango’ quintet  sound a bit staid in comparison to what came before, then it certainly demonstrates the length of the tradition in writing for this combination of strings. The titular dance of the finale reveals the Spanish influences of the Italian composer’s settled home – furiously alternating between two chords, and building to a climax with castanets for a rousing finish. 

All in all Dance is a charming musical package holiday, even if the British heatwave barely warrants it. Explore your listening options here.

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