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Cherry Pop

Title - Opera in Musica: Carlo Monza Quartets
Artist - Fabio Biondi & Europa Galante

For those unaware, on April 22nd, 2022 Naïve Classiques will release an album of six never-before recorded string quartets by 18th century Milanese composer Carlo Monza, performed by violinist Fabio Biondi and members of his Europa Galante ensemble: violinist Andrea Rognoni, violist Stefano Marcocchi, and cellist Alessandro Andriani.

With their joyful tone and flirtatious style, Monza’s string quartets could easily be taken for youthful works by Mozart, which is hardly surprising, as the 14-year-old Mozart was in Milan at the time, immersed in its music and its composers: Sammartini, Lampugnani, and Monza.“I was trying to find out what characterized the writing of the composers in the court of the Duke of Milan, and how Mozart, then a young man of fourteen, had understood this himself so he would be accepted by local audiences,” writes Biondi.

“I therefore began by looking at the Milanese composers of the time, which basically included three names: Giovanni Battista Sammartini, undoubtedly the most important, Giovanni Battista Lampugnani and Carlo Monza.”

A decade ago, Biondi chanced upon a catalogue of manuscripts stored in a private library, including the six string quartets of Monza. Frustratingly, the library denied Biondi access to them, but after a long search he discovered a copy was in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

“Monza’s music is so beautiful and reflects so accurately the Milanese school in the second half of the eighteenth century that I wanted to make a recording of it,” says Biondi.

1-5. quartetto in do maggiore "gli amanti rivali"
6-10. quartetto in re maggiore "opera in musica"
11-13. quartetto in fa maggiore "la fucina di vulcano"
14-17. quartetto in si bemolle maggiore "il giuocatore"
18-21. quartetto in soi minore "divertimento notturno"
22-25. quartetto in mi bemolle "la ca"

The simply divine recording opens on the immediately sprightly, stoic mid thrust, yet euphorically culminating work of quartetto in do maggiore "gli amanti rivali" and follows that up seamlessly with the animated, at first, earnest and forthright next, honest and cultured at end "opera in musica".

The merry opening and close of "la fucina di vulcano" is married in the midst by a beautifully crafted bout of longing and reach and then we are into the quartetto in si bemoile maggiore "il giuocatore", which opens with fervency, centers itself with a solid stance, and then brings forth the royal ending.

Along next is quartetto in soi minore "divertimento notturno" which is opened with a playful swirl and twirl before heading into the more composed midsection, culminating on the graciousness of a stunningly melodic embrace, the final work of quartetto in mi bemolle "la ca", where we are instantly drawn in with an effervescent pairing, comes to a close on a sternly crafted mid region and then a work of pure, unadulterated gossamer is lovingly brought forth.

The six quartets are characterized by an operatic form and evocative subtitles. The vocal style of composition – right down to the recitatives played by the violins or the viola in Gli amanti rivali or Opera in musica, where the purely instrumental lines seem to be guided by the rhythm of an invisible text – displays a true dramatic art, a series of colourful mini-plays (Gli amanti rivali, La fucina di Vulcano), moods (Divertimento notturno, La caccia) and sentiments (Gli amanti rivali, Il giuocatore).

“The general public knows the most famous composers, but I believe it is always important to play those who remain in the shadows but contributed just as much to the wealth of the history of music and the construction of new forms,” continues Biondi. “Monza was an important and all-round composer, as can be seen in all his instrumental, symphonic or operatic music that we have at our disposal today.”

Europa Galante
Fabio Biondi, Violin
Andrea Rognoni, Violin
Stefano Marcocchi, Viola
Alessandro Andriani, Cello