The Art of Muses / Luca Quintavalle

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Ursula Mamlok’s Three Bagatelles are miniatures characterized by a free application of serial technique, courting expressionist parallels with rhetorical, concentrated gestures. In Tumbáo, Tania Leon...

Ursula Mamlok’s Three Bagatelles are miniatures characterized by a free application of serial technique, courting expressionist parallels with rhetorical, concentrated gestures. In Tumbáo, Tania Leon uses a string bass pattern from her native Cuba without being confined to a specifically Latin style in its development. Graciane Finzi’s Espressivo evokes Romanticism (the period when the harpsichord almost disappeared from view) and could even be heard as an evocation of Chopin, but for a complementary tape part featuring a second, detuned harpsichord. Karola Obermüller composed the Suite des femmages as a set of tributes to both the composer Ruth Crawford Seeger and Obermüller's own mother, Barbara, and they are accordingly imbued with a ferocity and a bracing power which reflects her admiration for both the women and their accomplishments. Errolyn Wallen dedicated Louis’s Loops to her infant godson, and there is a playful quality to the juxtaposition of frenetic activity with oases of peace, where echoes of the past resurface poetically and sometimes with subtle irony.

Santa Ratniece took inspiration from the world of astronomy for Mira, which is named after a kind of pulsing star: with every pulse cycle, Mira increases in luminosity and strength. The Mobius-Ring of Misato Mochizuki describes an earthly scientific phenomenon, looping like Wallen’s and Ratniece’s works through evolving pulsations of the same material. Sofia Gubaidulina organized the Ritorno Perpetuo along complementary principles of varied repetition, determined in part by numerology and the Fibonacci sequence. This is the most extensive work on the album, but every piece here has something distinctive to say, and gains from its contrast with the others.


Harpsichordist Luca Quintavalle's aim with this album is not simply to improve representation for female composers: he wants to eschew masculine perspectives entirely to allow feminine art to create a language of its own.

What this means in practice is that we are presented with a program of highly contrasting works that highlight the sheer breadth of music written by female composers for the harpsichord. Nearly all the pieces featured here are debut recordings, whether that’s of the piece as a whole, a new harpsichord arrangement by Quintavalle himself or the first recording on a Baroque instrument.

Gubaidulina’s Ritorno perpetuo and Mochizuki’s Moebius-Ring are the two substantial works on this album, each built on mathematical concepts and numerological elements. Just like his programming choices, there is nothing shy or retiring about Quintavalle’s playing. His bold efforts are matched by an exposed, clear acoustic, which brings out the intensity of the frenetic moments and the violent harmonic clashes. The hard edges are at the fore, with the harpsichord’s plucking effect utilised to its full powers.

Whether or not Quintavalle’s academic approach to gender parity in classical music has been successful is a slightly moot point: here we see the rich ways the writing of these composers can enlighten and work alongside one another to bring out new perspectives on an instrument that has enjoyed a contemporary resurgence over the last century.

-- BBC Music Magazine

Product Description:

  • Release Date: January 06, 2023

  • UPC: 5028421964768

  • Catalog Number: BRI96476

  • Label: Brilliant Classics

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: Contemporary

  • Composer: Graciane Finzi, Sofia Gubaidulina, Tania Leon, Ursula Mamlok, Misato Mochizuki, Karola Obermüller, Santa Ratniece, Augusta Read Thomas, Anna Thorvaldsdottir

  • Performer: Luca Quintavalle


  1. Etude No. 1: II. Fire Waltz (Homage to Béla Bartók)

    Composer: Augusta Read THomas

    Performer: Luca Quintavalle (Harpsichord)

  2. Bagatelles (3)

    Composer: Ursula Mamlok

    Performer: Luca Quintavalle (Harpsichord)

  3. Tumbao

    Composer: Tania León

    Performer: Luca Quintavalle (Harpsichord)

  4. Espressivo

    Composer: Graciane Finzi

    Performer: Luca Quintavalle (Harpsichord)

  5. Suite des Femmages

    Composer: Karola Obermüller

    Performer: Luca Quintavalle (Harpsichord)

  6. Louis' Loops

    Composer: Errollyn Wallen

    Performer: Luca Quintavalle (Harpsichord)

  7. Mira

    Composer: Santa Ratniece

    Performer: Luca Quintavalle (Harpsichord)

  8. Impressions

    Composer: Anna Thorvaldsdottir

    Performer: Luca Quintavalle (Harpsichord)

  9. Ritorno perpetuo

    Composer: Sofia Gubaidulina

    Performer: Luca Quintavalle (Harpsichord)

  10. Moebius-Ring

    Composer: Misato Mochizuki

    Performer: Luca Quintavalle (Harpsichord)