Arriaga: String Quartet No. 1 in D minor; String Quartet No. 2 in A; String Quartet No. 3 in E flat

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COMPOSERS: Arriaga
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: String Quartet No. 1 in D minor; String Quartet No. 2 in A; String Quartet No. 3 in E flat
PERFORMER: Guarneri Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 446 092-2 DDD
Juan Crisóstomo Jacobo Antonio de Arriaga y Balzola was once dubbed ‘the Spanish Mozart’. Born half a century to the day after Mozart, he died – no one quite knows how – before reaching his twentieth birthday. His three string quartets, published when he was 18, certainly show precocious talent. Their melodic invention is both original and charming, but despite moments of considerable beauty they are all too liable to lapse into banality. The best of them is No. 3, which contains a remarkable ‘pastoral’ slow movement with an impressive storm.

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The Guarneri Quartet performs this music with obvious affection, though the players sound curiously restrained at times. One or two small imperfections in the playing are highlighted by a close, analytical recording. Misha Donat