RAVEL: String Quartet; TOLDRA: Vistes al mar; TURNIA: Oracion del torero – Casals Quartet – Harmonia mundi

by | Oct 15, 2007 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

RAVEL: String Quartet; TOLDRA: Vistes al mar; TURNIA: Oracion del torero – Casals Quartet – Harmonia mundi HMI 987072, 55:02 ***1/2:

The young Casals Quartet, based in Madrid, has only really come into its own since 2003. It augers well for Spanish musicians that these three gents and a lady are representative of what the conservatories are turning out in Spain. The Ravel is magical; for such a time tested and frankly, over-recorded work to get such a sensuous, hothouse reading as this took me completely by surprise. I suppose it could be the youth factor—what is old hat for me after all these years is fresh and sparkling for them, and they approach it as if the ink were still wet on the page.

Eduardo Tundra (1895-1962) is a composer whom most people are not going to be familiar, but once they hear his Vistes al mar, his quartet based on three poems by Joan Maragall, a Catalan poet who hated to work and loved to beget children (he had 13), they might turn their heads in recognition. Toldra orchestrated this piece later, but its quartet original supplies the best platform for this evocative work, tuneful and a delight to listen to. But—and I can’t emphasize this enough—the now trendy option of reading poetry before the performance of the work is lethally aggravating. Especially on a CD, and one where it can’t be programmed out, as if most people will take the trouble anyway. I can’t speak for the Spanish audience, who at least get to hear the poems in their own language, but for me this is a completely unnecessary and superfluous endeavor, as if I need to hear Mallarme’s poem before listening to Afternoon of a Faun. Stop, please, and just give us the music!

Joaquin Turina’s piece Oracion del torero, curiously, gets the most press in the brief notes to this release, but is also the shortest work, coming in at right about eight and one-half minutes. This pasadoble, reflecting on the thoughts of a matador before entering the ring, has a note of authentic Spanish passion that can really only be found in composers like Turina, who were heart-on-sleeve nationalists. His star seems to be rising somewhat, at least in recordings, though we still don’t hear enough in the concert halls (though we don’t hear nearly enough of many things in the concert hall). This is lovely, wistful music that ends the recital in a rather introverted mood.

The sound is very good here, perhaps a little on the bloomy side and lacking some treble, but this can be adjusted. This is the Casal’s forth album on HM, and bodes well for the future.

— Steven Ritter

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