I Musici

Rossini: Sonatas for Strings Nos. 1-6

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Known by and large for his seemingly inexhaustible supply of lighthearted operas, Gioachino Rossini did not restrict himself to that genre alone. As a boy of only 12 years, he was already accepting commissions to write small chamber works, including the present set of six string sonatas commissioned by the wealthy Agostino Triossi. Triossi was an accomplished amateur double bassist, a fact to which Rossini paid homage by scoring the six sonatas for a quartet made up of two violins, cello, and bass. Rossini went further by not merely confining the bass to an entirely accompanimental role, but giving the large instrument lines and nimble passages of its own. This 1971 recording features the 12-member I Musici, an ensemble that has earned a well-deserved reputation for precision playing, exacting intonation, and sparkling period performances. All of these positive attributes can be heard on this Newton Classics album, yet their performances are not all they could be. For one, the instrumentation is tripled here, and while 12 musicians is still a small group, it cuts down on the original sound quality and nimbleness achieved with just a quartet of instruments. Given the importance of the double bass in these works, it's also disappointing that I Musici's bassist is so difficult to hear and is far less defined and articulate than his upper string counterparts.

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