Review by: Victor Carr Jr

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

This collection of feisty, vibrant, gutsy, and overall brilliant string quartets is sure to blow away anyone’s impression of chamber music as stuffy or tedious. There’s not a dull moment in the bunch, and there are many–as in Revueltas’ brash and bold String Quartet No. 4 (composed in 1932)–that will challenge. But after the brief eight-minute, four-movement Revueltas quartet is over you’ll certainly agree that the challenge was worth it. At the other extreme is the intense yet quiet mystery of Mario Lavista’s Reflections of the Night (1984), which is played entirely on harmonics, giving rise to strangely Debussyian and more often other-worldly textures. Julian Orbón’s 1951 String Quartet is a gripping work from the composer’s youth, and it presents a much harder, single-minded, and uncompromising musical style than his later orchestral pieces.

A greater contrast could not be found than the gentle opening strains of Villa-Lobos’ String Quartet No. 5, a work that incorporates a delightful variety of Brazilian dances (there’s even a cat’s meow) throughout all four movements. String Quartet No. 17, the composer’s last, features a greater sense of classical rigor, though the melodic style is far more subtle and reflective (especially the wistful and poignant Lento movement). The traditional Brazilian elements are still here but they are now refracted through a highly personal prism. Highly personal also describes these magnificent performances by the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, whose players appear to have a deep emotional and spiritual connection with the music they’re playing. Elan’s close (but not overwhelming) recording draws you fully into this highly-charged music making, and you won’t want to leave until it’s all over. An essential acquisition for string quartet fans and 20th century music connoisseurs alike. [7/27/2001]

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None

HEITOR VILLA-LOBOS - String Quartets Nos. 5 & 17
SILVESTRE REVUELTAS - String Quartet No. 4 "Musica de Feria"
JULIÁN ORBÓN - String Quartet
MARIO LAVISTA - Reflejos de la Noche

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