The Brazilian Guitar Quartet's latest album is a 'superb recording by one of the world's finest guitar quartets'
FALLA: 4 Spanish Pieces; Dance 2 fr La Vida Breve; GRANADOS: Fandango del Candil; El Pelele; TURINA: Zapateado; RODRIGO: Sonada del Adios; 4 Pieces; MOMPOU: Songs & Dances 3, 6, 8; ALBENIZ: Azulejos
Brazilian Guitar Quartet—Delos 3466—74 min
Another superb recording by one of the world’s finest guitar quartets. I reviewed enthusiastically their Villa-Lobos disc (J/A 2011). The Grammy judges agreed with me—it earned a Grammy that year. This is every bit as fine.
The guitar quartet shouldn’t really work—four instruments with identical range. That hasn’t kept ensembles like Los Romeros, the LA Guitar Quartet, or the Aquarelle Quartet from outstanding music making. The Brazilians take a step to remedy this by using two eight-stringed instruments, with an extra bass and an extra treble, extending the range on both ends. That allows them to perform works that can’t be done on the traditional six- stringed instruments.
It also helps to have an outstanding arranger, Tadeu do Amaral, who contributed all the transcriptions for this recording. My test for an effective transcription is that you should not miss the originals, and each of these passes.
Most of the works are from the piano repertory—the only exception is the second Spanish dance from Falla’s opera La Vida Breve. Most are familiar, especially for those of us who grew up with Alicia de Larrocha’s classic performances (still available on an 8-disc EMI set at an incredible price). These can hold their own with hers, and that’s high praise. Falla’s Four Spanish Pieces, excerpts from Goyescas, one of Turina’s dances—all sound glorious. Then there are four of Mompou’s Songs & Dances, music I deeply love. I had forgotten that the eighth pair was two Catalan songs that Llobet arranged for guitar: ‘El Testament de Amelia’ and ‘La Filadora’. This music, these performances, just make one feel good, bathing in beauty.
I was not familiar with Rodrigo’s Sonada de Adios written on the death of Paul Dukas, his teacher; nor his Four Pieces (Larrocha did not record it, to my knowledge). My loss—they are as beautiful as anything else on the program. The third, ‘Plegaria de la Infanta de Castilla’, is achingly lovely.
The work closes with Albeniz’s ‘Azulejos’. This is one of two of Albeniz’s pieces that rival the depth of expression of the finest of Iberia (the other is ‘La Vega’, both recorded in the Larrocha set). It was incomplete when he died and finished by Granados. It joins the transcription of ‘La Vega’ from the Aquarelle Quartet CD (M/J 2014) as magnificent additions to the guitar quartet repertory.
Kenneth Keaton, American Record Guide (Nov/Dec)