Rhythm & Texture

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Alvarez & Golijov,Gershiwn,lavista,Ravel
LABELS: Orchid
WORKS: Ravel: String Quartet in F; Alvarez: Metro Chabacano; Gershwin: Lullaby; Golijov: Tenebrae; Mario Lavista: Reflejos de la noche
PERFORMER: Brodsky Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: ORC 100012

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Brodsky cellist Jacqueline Thomas calls the opening movement of Ravel’s quartet ‘impressionist’, and that’s certainly the way the ensemble plays it, teasing out rallentandos expressively, moulding phrases supplely, and straining to distil the ‘breathless beauty’ Thomas also mentions. The price to pay is a certain episodic feeling and opacity in the second violin and viola parts.

Ravel’s famous second movement pizzicatos are snapped off with great colour and imagination, while in the slow movement highly sensitised renditions of individual episodes and incidents again come at the expense of a fully coherent broader picture. This is not a classic Ravel Quartet (quartets like the Italiano and Melos provide that), but it is often effective.

The other pieces here, ostensibly themed to complement the Ravel, actually have little in common with it, but are a refreshing alternative to the standard Debussy coupling. Most interesting is Lavista’s Reflejos de la noche, a slithering, chirruping evocation of the South American night played entirely in natural harmonics.

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At ten minutes in duration, it slightly outstays its welcome, as does Golijov’s Tenebrae, which evocatively borrows melodic fragments from Couperin’s third Leçon. Alvarez’s playful Metro Chabacano could well be the only quartet piece written for a subway station. The Gershwin is warmly affectionate. Full marks to the Brodskys for adventurous programming. Terry Blain