The duo comprised of Raquel Andueza and Jesús Fernández Baena has consolidated itself in the ancient music scene as one of the most celebrated and sought after duos by the main concert halls and festivals of Europe.
Their success is based on outstanding training, along with ongoing efforts to strive for excellence and continuous learning aimed at approaching perfection. This work on stage has lead to wide-ranging recognition over the last eight years.
The warmth of their performances infuses their repertoires, allowing us to rediscover pieces and composers and providing us with a new perspective on ancient music by transporting us to the past to relive bygone sensations.
Their repertoire mainly focuses on 17th and 18th-century Spanish and Italian music, though they likewise make equally masterful forays into French, German and English music from the period. Raquel and Jesús are involved in the formidable task of recovering lost or forgotten scores. Part of their efforts are aimed at bringing these pieces back to life so they can be enjoyed today just as they were composed over three hundred years ago in a way that can be understood and appreciated by all those who listen to them.
“The Spanish musicians Raquel Andueza and Jesús Fernández Baena (soprano and theorbist respectively) have put together a wonderful anthology on unrequited love in the Italian 17thcentury under the title D’amore e tormenti, which is comprised of a set of arias a voce sola composed from the 1630s onwards, a very prolific period in the history of music. Raquel Andueza gives each piece a delivery filled with nuances, adapting her voice wonderfully to the text. Like an actress, her use of verbal emphasis is exquisite and she places her technical abilities at the service of the music. For his part, Jesús Fernández Baena is an outstanding and inspiring counterpoint to the soprano’s voice and at no point is he merely there to accompany her. He always plays an active part, keenly aware of the meaning of what is being sung. At the same time, his way of playing or strumming (as you prefer) the strings of his instrument opens up the gates to a fantastic sonorous universe. Passions and affections are moved in this record and run through the gamut of moods, which are perfectly differentiated by the kind of love and the torments it causes. As could not be otherwise, the way affections are dealt with is poignant. It is a fine-grained work and a superb start in the world of discography. One can only hope that their next work is released to the market soon.”
“In the history of melody which is yet to be written, the early Italian Baroque would certainly occupy a unique place. One of the most fruitful and inspiring moments of melodic creation followed on from the pure stark recitative style through which the period’s leading composers wanted to disassociate themselves from Renaissance counterpoint, in which the text was practically unintelligible. It was a time in which music and poetry went hand in hand, without either of them taking on a preponderant role. Composers like Tarquinio Merula, Stefano Landi, Maurizio Cazzati, Benedetto Ferrari, Barbara Strozzi or the maestro himself, Claudio Monteverdi, austerely experimented with the means (voice and basso continuo accompaniment) to enjoy verses and the orderly sounds of canto in equal measure.
This album is an outstanding example of all this and takes as its backdrop one of the favourite topics of classical poets: the sweet pain of love, the unforeseeable tormented madness caused by indescribable irrationality. The musical pieces written on this subject in those decades are without doubt a unique treasure. I can think of few titles which are better suited than these to enter into that world and enjoy this repertoire of outstanding beauty. What is more, I imagine that Raquel Andueza and Jesús Fernández Baena would be hard-pressed to choose which pieces to include in a CD among all of them. So many records could be filled with these masterful pieces derived from the most refined musical sensibility! These are wonderful interpretations due to their quality and warmth capable of satisfying all kinds of music lovers, from the curious beginner to the most demanding sybarite.”
“When unrequited love is interpreted with such spontaneity, style and musical rigour, I am thankful that life has given us so many opportunities to express it. Such is the case of this outstanding collection of Baroque arias a voce sola with accompaniment (basso continuo), in this case of the theorbo. The record is yet another of the catalogue of Baroque and ancient music gems put together by Nicolás Basarrate with his NB record label.
I had the privilege of meeting Nicolás at the 2nd International Music Congress held in Barcelona in May this year. I approached him after a paper when he placed into question – with great aplomb – a comment made by Oriol Pérez, the sub-director of the Torroella Music Festival (in the Ampurdan in Catalonia), who had dared to assert that there was no top-quality Spanish music before the 18th century. I was dumbstruck at the time. What about Morales, Vitoria, Guerrero? And without mentioning other names well worth exploring like Martín y Soler, Sor, Anchieta and many others I do not wish to remember or even mention at this moment. That hasty comment caused me some uneasiness, but I felt, as a foreigner, that my complaint would fall on deaf ears. The surprising thing was that it didn’t seem to bother any of those in attendance, except Nicolás who expressed his disagreement at Pérez’s statement (Does he know the music of his own country, I wondered) in the subsequent question and answer session. That day we ended up eating some Palestinian pitas in the company of an Argentine composer friend, who is Stockausen’s biographer and an ex-student of his (imagine the scene!). From that moment, a peculiar friendship arose between us, in which the meeting point is music.
NB Musika is small record label set up with affection. It is one of Nicolás’s personal projects and won’t make him rich. It will, however, leave behind a rich legacy of historical music. Several of his composers must be enjoying their works come alive once again in heaven, or wherever they may be.
The record by the soprano Raquel Andueza and theorbist Jesús Fernández Baena could well be a wonderful Christmas gift or sweet indulgence at any other time of the year. The pieces are brilliantly arranged around the notion of love and its torments. It seems to me that the arias composed by Barbara Strozzi constitute the backbone of the recital, flanked by two magnificent compositions by Tarquinio Merula and Claudio Monteverdi. There are also some arias by composers like Stefano Landi and Benedetto Ferrari, along with solo pieces for the theorbo by maestros like Johannes Kapsberger. The talent of both performers is beautifully highlighted in this production, which has an outstanding sound that allows all the nuances of Andueza’s voice and Fernández Baena’s instrument to shine through. The natural acoustics of the Convent of Santa Cruz in Azkoitia are perfectly suitable for this production’s dimly-lit ambience.
I became hooked on Andueza’s voice and Fernández Baena’s musicianship from the very first aria, Folle è ben che si crede (He Who Believes is Mad). Andueza is a light-toned soprano with a ductile silver-lined timbre. The tones she delivers throughout her interpretations not only convince the ear but also transport us to the very heart of each of these lovelorn and heartbreaking arias. The lovers incarnated by Andueza are not melodramatic characters of the worst kind of court, but rather human beings afflicted by unrequited love. For his part, Fernández Baena does not merely accompany her. All these arias have an almost symbiotic relationship between the voice and the instrument. His playing is poetic and the expressive vibrato he achieves at several moments is terse or weeping in keeping with the music. Some of the basso continuo modulations are surprising.
I mentioned above that Barbara Strozzi’s music is the album’s cornerstone. The Venetian composer’s music accounts for a quarter of an hour and we are most fortunate it has been included. Her lyricism and expressive capacity, which range from the silent drama of Amante segreto to the exuberant but bitter humour of L’Eraclito amoroso, are a delight for the ear. Benedetto Ferrari provides us with another humorous moment with his piece Son ruinato, appassionato, which is full of exaggeration rendered through the Andueza’s expressive voice. Stefano Landi, eminently an opera composer, provides us with a lovely pastoral aria Augellin and Ferrari induces Fernandez Baena to caress our ears with his instrument through the fluid and uninhibited Voglio di vita uscir.
Like so many other records that have focused on the early Baroque, this record has made me doubt whether Romanticism is definitively a creation of the 19th century. The conviction and the work of both these musicians seem to confirm my suspicions”.
“I will not tire of repeating that Spain has recently given rise to a wonderful generation of singers specialising in the Baroque repertoire, most of them aged around thirty or thereabouts. The vanguard of this formidable phalanx is comprised, to my mind, by three sopranos: Núria Rial, María Espada and Raquel Andueza. Without the media exposure which has encumbered some foreign (especially French) divas, in some cases without deserving it, Rial, Espada and Andueza can today be numbered among the world’s best singers (at least among those who perform historical music). This is so not because I say so, but because their agendas reveal it.
If I am not mistaken, this is Andueza’s second solo recording after the one she recorded for Naxos, along with the harpist Manuel Valls and the human touch provided by Sebastián Durón. This time she is accompanied by the theorbist Jesus Fernandez Baena, with whom she has formed a stable duo for some time. The soprano from Navarre has chosen a wonderful selection of love arias from the Italian 17th century composed as from 1630. The pieces are by Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), Tarquinio Merula (1594-1665), Stefano Landi (1587-1639), Maurizio Cazzati (1620-1677), Benedetto Ferrari (1603-1681) and Barbara Strozzi (1619-1664). Two instrumental pieces are also included, a chaconne by Alessandro Piccinini (1566-c. 1638) and a toccata by Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger (c. 1580-1651), which Fernández – a habitual component of Al Ayre Español and El Concierto Español among other groups – strums with extraordinary gusto.
The great virtue of this record is that it reaches into the heart due to the spiritual peace it conveys. Those of us who dedicate ourselves to writing reviews are lucky enough (or unlucky, depending on your perspective) to listen to many records, which allows us to spend our time on what we truly like. I can assure you that I have listened to his one during five days in a row non-stop and without feeling the slightest need to listen to anything else that could distract my attention. Such was my enchantment, which has not diminished one iota since then. Whenever I get the chance, I play it again.
It contains two of the most beautiful works ever composed by any musician, Folle è ben che si crede by Merula, which opens the compact disc, and Monteverdi’s Si dolce è il tormento, which closes it.
I have listened to countless versions of both and they have never produced such an effect on me (well, I have to admit there is a version of Folle è ben out there by Núria Rial which is also capable of bringing the dead back to life). However, the rest of the arias contained in this record are no less beautiful.
Few times have I heard a list of tracks made up of such ravishing pieces and few times have I heard them performed so well as in this record. Here we have an album which demands pride of place in our music library, a place which can be easily reached to listen to it whenever we want to escape from the maddening world. And if that weren’t enough, the packaging is truly superb, not only due to its well-documented notes, but also because of the fact that the arias have been translated into Spanish, which is always welcome.”
“Raquel Andueza is today the most solid and representative voice of the Renaissance and Baroque repertoire in Spain and is increasingly consolidating her ongoing presence in the Spanish music scene. Raquel Andueza’s career to date has been courageous, placing a wager on collaborating with the most audacious projects and with the musicians most concerned with recovering Spain’s historic musical heritage as well as with performing the world’s wide-ranging musical legacy.
For instance, her recordings with La Colombina – a group she joined in 2003, covering the place left by Maria Cristina Kiehr – have shown she has both personality and quality that go beyond mainstream standards. Raquel has been anxious to record an album for some time now to showcase her voice and her personality with all the emotion and intensity she knows how to convey in her concerts with minimal accompaniment; “without any tricks” as she herself would say. That LP seems to have finally been released in the form of love and torment, exquisite pieces from the Italian 17th century by Merula, Strozzi, Landi, Cazzati, Ferrari and, of course, Monteverdi. Everything about the album is infused with exquisiteness, feeling, passion and that aura of sadness caused by unrequited love. She is subtly accompanied by Jesús Fernández’s theorbo, which is only given the chance to take centre stage in two brief pieces by Kapsberger and Piccinini.”