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Jesús GURIDI (1886-1961) String Quartet No. 1 in G (1933) [23:23]
String Quartet No. 2 in A minor (1949) [31:52]
Bretón String Quartet (Anne-Marie North (violin I); Antonio
Cárdenas (violin II); Iván Martín (viola); John Stokes
rec. Musicstry Studios, Madrid, Spain, 31 October, 1, 30 November
2011 (1); 5-6, 10 February 2012 (2). DDD
NAXOS SPANISH CLASSICS 8.573036 [55:15]
I associate the Basque composer Guridi with vividly coloured nationalist
orchestral music. That said, we should not overlook the operas and
zarzuelas. How did he approach the more naturally subdued world of
the string quartet?
The First Quartet was premiered in Bilbao two years before
the start of the Spanish Civil War. It is a light, highly melodious,
folk-inflected work. Its four movements are a sumptuous blend of Smetana
in song and Ravel in illuminated textures. The second movement reminded
me of the skippingly carefree Bax First Quartet. After a touching
Adagio we make a welcome return to the happy writing of the first
two movements. The Second Quartet is grounded in much the same
grittily immediate melos with some extremely tender writing along
the way. The harmonic world is sometimes more saturated and complex
but the yearning lyric impulse is sovereign. It was premiered in Madrid
The vibrantly raw and edgily up-front tone of the Bretón Quartet
has been majestically caught by the engineers. One could never describe
the playing or the sound as grey.
There is an alternative 1998 recording of the two Guridi quartets
by the Enesco Quartet on Ensayo ENYCD9706. I have not heard this but
I note that its playing time is 53 minutes - so some 2 minutes faster
than the Bretón. It is now only available as a download.
The Naxos insert essay is by Carlos Magán and is in both Spanish
and English. It provides all the necessary context to complete the
Naxos have already done inspired and fulfilled work for Guridi as
his opera Amaya (Marco Polo 8.225084-85) and the Sinfonia Pirenaica (1945) on 8.557631 and Basque Melodies (1941) on 8.557110 go to show. Then there are two other notable discs: a collection
of piano music on 8.557633 and the zarzuela Caserio on 8.557632. One must hope for more Guridi revivals.
It is noted that this recording was made possible because of the sponsorship
of Laurent López Morales (Luthier) and Musicstry Studios.
These fresh and well-chosen revivals merit wider attention from anyone
with a predilection for the string quartets of Ravel, Kodály,
Bax or Moeran.