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Francisco GUERRERO Zayin     Arditti String Quartet   Almaviva DS-0127 66'49"

Distributed in the UK by Discovery Records,  The Old Church Mission Room, King's Corner, Pewsey, Wilts SN9 5BS +44 (0)1672 563931

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Francisco Guerrero (1951-97) was an influential Andalusian composer and teacher. He developed an interest in investigating the nature of sound, and became involved with electro-acoustics in the early 70s. He linked music with its scientific dimensions and incorporated 'fractals' in his compositional processes - but please do not stop reading here!

Zayin is a major work composed over a 14 year span, finished in the year of his premature death. Five of the eight pieces, which can be played separately, are for string trio; two for quartet and the longest of all for solo violin. It begins explosively with violent dissonance and a harsh surface sound. Words cannot describe adequately its changing moods and the extremely varied impressions it makes superficially, nor is it likely to be helpful to paraphrase the description of technical structures provided. The instruments are almost never played in a conventional melodic manner (indeed you will not find a tune in the whole hour of music) but the cumulative effect of the extended techniques employed is invigorating and, to my ears, exciting. It is easier to take than a lot of modernist music, because his sound structures burst with imagination in colour and rhythmic vitality. To quote a typical passage from Stefano Russomanno's essay, 'Zayin IV explodes violently - - in turbulent ascending spirals, the sound matter always regenerated with increasing tension'. The 16 minute Zayin VI explores the violin's low G string, as if looking for more depth, producing a dark sound - 'a violin that wants to sound like a quartet'.

If you know, and are comfortable with, the Ardittis' recordings of Xenakis and Ferneyhough [Montaigne 782005 & 789002] you should enjoy this. If not, start not at the beginning, which may feel like a plunge into ice-cold water, but sample first Zayin V, 'one of Guerrero's most exquisitely sweet works' says the notes writer (with which I concur) or the 16 minute violin solo Zayin VI, a fine pendant to Irvine Arditti's delightful recital of music for unaccompanied violin by Ferneyhough, Carter, Donatoni, de Pablo etc [Montaigne 789003].

Each of those CDs scores in my book, and this new one, made in association with WDR, sounds particularly well, apparently made in a more sympathetic, less dry, recording ambience than some of those in Montaigne's indispensable Arditti Quartet Edition. The players are pictured but not named. The inner voices have been through many changes of personnel, without noticeably affecting the Arditti Quartet's reliably high standard, so here is a photo of the line-up on this CD.


Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

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