Captivating Classical Gems: Embrace the Melodies of Schubert and Uncover a Unique Scottish-Mexican Love Affair for Your Home Listening Delight!

ByQuyen Anne

Jul 25, 2023

Sakuntala Trio’s excellent debut album includes a completion of Schubert’s first string trio. And Jamie MacDougall and Mr McFall’s Chamber revel in songs and chamber music from Mexico

 At first glance, another Schubert trios disc. On investigation, one of the more intriguing of recent chamber music releases, full of curiosity and fine playing. The Sakuntala Trio’s debut disc, Franz Schubert: The Complete String Trios (Resonus), with three Fantasias by Henry Purcell, features the world-premiere recording of Schubert’s String Trio in B flat, D.471, in a completion by Brian Newbould. Only the first movement and part of the slow movement were finished at the time of the composer’s death. The other Schubert work is the Trio in B flat, D.581 in the second version.

Newbould’s notes explain all the background and what to listen out for, but the priority here is to highlight the attentive, detailed performances by these string players. Dynamics and accents are keenly observed, without exaggeration. Gut strings and confined use of vibrato create a lean, lithe sound – characteristics that suit the Purcell too, in transcriptions by Peter Warlock. Every aspect of the recording quality (it was made in St Silas church, Kentish Town, London) is admirable.

 With a longstanding devotion to the music of Latin America, the Scottish tenor Jamie MacDougall wanted to collaborate on a recording. He argues that the classic songs of turn-of-last-century Mexico equal the American songbook in importance. They certainly burst with charm and character. Some form the centrepiece of Guacamaya: Songs & Chamber Music from Mexico (Delphian), in which MacDougall is joined by his compatriots and fellow Latin music enthusiasts Mr McFall’s Chamber.

This versatile group – here, a string quartet with percussion, piano and double bass – have a strong sideline in South American music, so ensemble and singer are well matched. Eight composers are featured in a wide range of styles, from drawing room culture to folk, bolero and bordello, with compositions dating from 1912 to 1993. Instrumental music is interwoven, by Javier Álvarez, Joaquín Gutiérrez Heras, Arturo Márquez, Silvestre Revueltas and others. The songwriters to note are Manuel Ponce, María Grever (who had success in Hollywood) and Agustín Lara, whose Granada is the most familiar track: hot, passionate and with a lingering hint of the bullfight.

Watch Jamie MacDougall and McFall’s Chamber recording Manuel Ponce’s Estrellita.

 Pick of the Proms: tomorrow at 2pm, the American countertenor Reginald Mobley and pianist Baptiste Trotignon perform traditional American spirituals, from Sage, Gateshead. On Wednesday the Hallé, conducted by Mark Elder, perform Rachmaninov’s The Bells and Shostakovich’s Symphony No 5; on Thursday the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with their new conductor, Kazuki Yamada, perform Stravinsky and Orff, returning on Friday for a Bollywood tribute to the late Lata Mangeshkar, one of India’s best-loved singers. All on Radio 3 and BBC Sounds.

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