Yes, There Are Great Spanish String Quartets–By Chapí

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 10

Ruperto Chapí (1851-1909) is best known for a string of splendid Zarzuelas, the most famous of which is probably La Revoltosa, but he composed works in many different media and was a very well-trained composer generally. Naxos has a fine disc of his orchestral music, including his only symphony. Toward the end of his life he wrote four magnificent string quartets, two of which are presented here. Hopefully the rest will follow.

These are major works, full-length, and ambitious in scope–they play for about 35 minutes each. The First Quartet’s first movement features about a billion repetitions of its principal motive, but even there Chapí’s powers of invention are pretty astonishing. The music is insistent, but never dull. The master lyricist is always in evidence, with tunes that always sing, while the treatment of texture is astonishingly colorful. There’s plenty of pizzicato for variety, for example, while the layout of the four instrumental lines is consistently airy and spacious. Combine that with the obviously Spanish melodic idiom, and the result is enchanting from start to finish.

The Cuarteto Latinoamericano plays with typical incisiveness and verve. However, the ensemble smartly tempers its trademark sharp sonority in a manner consistent with the music’s elegance and warmth, especially in the two slow-ish movements (Andante mosso and Allegretto, respectively). The truth is, there is very little actual slow music in these quartets. They quite literally seethe with energy, but the players differentiate and characterize each section notably well. Superb engineering from Sono Luminus captures every inflection with natural fidelity. A great release.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None

    Cuarteto Latinoamericano

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