The Strad Issue: January 2017
Description: Twelve sonatas by the little-known Italian composer Dario Castello
Musicians: Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Egarr (harpsichord/organ)
Composer: Castello
Catalogue number: AAM RECORDS AAM 005

All we know of Dario Castello is that he led a wind group at St Mark’s, Venice, in the early 17th century, and that he published two sets of sonatas for many combinations of strings and winds. All the twelve sonatas here are stylistically and harmonically adventurous, ‘in stil moderno’ indeed, mostly around five minutes long, in one movement subdivided into several sections.

The first two feature two violins and continuo, with clear articulation and elegant interaction, in music moving between energetic counterpoint and stately grace. The second is slower-paced, the playing expressive, spiced with rapid grouplets. There is one other string-only sonata, no.4, featuring violinist Pavlo Beznosiuk and Joseph Crouch on ‘violetta’ – here taken to mean a basso violetta da brazzo, tuned an octave below the violin, with a beautiful woody tone. The playing of both is nimble and expressive.

All the other sonatas feature a wind instrument with one or two violins. The fiddle playing is always full of energy, and Beznosiuk and Bojan ÄŒiÄić hold their own against sprightly playing from cornetto, trombone and the Falstaffian dulcian, a robust precursor of the bassoon. To hear violetta and cornetto playing together in the Sixth Sonata, mellow and dignified even when dancing, is a rare delight. This is a gem of a CD, recorded with excellent clarity and balance.

Tim Homfray