...Brought to life by Carter’s light, dextrous, precise yet relaxed playing.
Charlotte Gardner 2007
Given that the 5-stringed guitar originated in 16th-century Spain, it seems extraordinary that the written music of only three guitar composers of the period survives, two from the 16th and one from the 17th century. The Palladian Ensemble’s William Carter has chosen the music of the later composer of the three, Santiago de Murcia, for his second solo disc.
De Murcia’s major contribution to the genre was in marrying popular and art music forms together far more successfully that his predecessors. De Murcia could seemingly turn his hand to any style. His works include versions of Spanish, West African, and even New World folk songs, plus arrangements of fashionable European dance suites. Little is known about his personal story, other than he probably worked in the Madrid court during the late 17th and early 18th centuries as Guitar Master to Queen Maria Luisa Gabriela of Savoy. Two of the pieces on this album were found in Mexico, and more new works were recently found in Chile, so perhaps he immigrated to the New World after the queen’s death in 1714.
Carter has given us de Murcia’s full stylistic and international range on this wonderful CD. The Zarembeques o Muecas and the Cumbees, both dances of West African origin that probably arrived in Spain via the New World, are hip-swayingly sexy to a degree that makes the mind boggle as to how a 17th-century Queen could have possibly got away with playing them. This is especially true of the Cumbees. Carter plays this rippling, forward-flowing, flirtatious dance with a vivacious abandon that never loses control. Compare these two dances with the Prelude and Gigue from Corelli’s Violin Sonata Op.5 No.3. This is refined and courtly, whilst far removed from our usual expectations of Corelli.
De Murcia’s music, by turns sultry and playful, is brought to life by Carter’s light, dextrous, precise yet relaxed playing. This is real summer listening, conjuring up warmer climes than here. Rather than England’s lush, rolling hills, think of lizards stretched out on low, sun-baked walls, and cool courtyard gardens with a fountain tinkling in the background.