Mario LAVISTA (b.1943)
Complete String Quartets
String Quartet No.2 Reflejos de la noche (1984) [10:30]
String Quartet No.3 Musica para mi vecino (1995) [12:25]
String Quartet No.4 Sinfonías (1996) [16:26]
String Quartet No.5 Siete invenciones (1998) [11:07]
String Quartet No.1 Diacronía (1969) [7:55]
String Quartet No.6 Suite en cinco partes (1999) [13:49]
Cuarteto Latinoamericano
rec. 19-20 February, 2007, Sala Silvestre Revueltas, Estudios Churubusco, Mexico City, Mexico. DDD
TOCCATA TOCC0106 [75:27]
Mario Lavista was born in 1943 in Mexico City and is one of Mexico's most prominent living composers. Despite this, there aren't so many CDs including his highly individual music; and none devoted entirely to the composer. In fact, this is the first and only CD with Lavista's intriguing and very beautiful string quartets. It should be snapped up immediately by any lover of contemporary chamber music. Well-conceived, well-played and well-presented. A little gem.
Lavista's is an interesting career: he studied both in Mexico and in Paris and founded the improvisation group, Quanta, at the age of 27 before being invited to Tokyo to work on indeterminacy in electronic music there. By the end of the 1970s he had broadened his focus to Extended Techniques (ET), writing music for traditional instruments using a variety of unconventional timbral possibilities. These were often written for, and in close collaboration with, named, known musicians. Since then, Lavista has established himself as a leading musicologist in the hemisphere, and a teacher and writer with a great deal of influence.
If for no other reasons than these, this CD of Lavista's complete (six, to date) string quartets is to be welcomed; the music it contains is likely to be listened to with as much pleasure as it bears critical scrutiny for its originality, rigour and gentle beauty. Further, this chamber medium typifies for Lavista some of the same qualities as it does for other Central and South-American composers such as Carlos Chávez (1899-1978), Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940) and Manuel Enríquez … not least the poetry and emotion of an intensely European instrumental sensibility translated to the new world. But for Lavista the fascination goes further: the potential for ETs with strings and the spirituality of the resulting sound - perhaps against the odds.
The Cuarteto Latinoamericano was formed in 1982; it consists of the three brothers, violinists Saúl and Arón and cellist Alvaro Bitrán, with violist Javier Montiel. They have a worldwide reputation - but, again, sadly more within their sphere than with a broader audience. Despite their stunning technique and equally impressive interpretative powers, and despite the fact that they have slowly but surely worked their way towards the top of their tree in terms of appreciation and reputation, again, all too few recordings exist which present to those not already 'in the know' the immense amount of musicality, insight and at times breathtaking creativity that they have to offer.
This CD certainly ought to put that right. Each quartet on this very generous CD (almost an hour and a quarter long) is different, has something new and important to say. The use of ETs is never gratuitous; sometimes it's hardly noticeable. Yet the range of sound, colour and mood that Lavista offers is remarkably wide.
Sometimes, he evokes an atmosphere - night, in the second quartet, for example. At others he pursues aims related to technique or form - he stretches and very consciously controls time in the first; and extrapolates auras and moods from the contrasts between lyricism and the music's more mechanical pulse in the fifth. In the third, Lavista celebrates the fact that he and Arón Bitrán were neighbours. Numbers four and six reflect other of Lavista's and mediaeval contrapuntal models respectively. But none of this is even slightly self-conscious or forced.
The playing of the Cuarteto Latinoamericano is accomplished, free yet tightly directed from start to finish. Indeed, the quartet was effectively the inspiration, the impetus certainly, for most of these quartets. The players seem to have the music in their blood. It would be hard to think of more persuasive accounts.
The booklet that comes with this CD is informative without feeling any need to rush, proselytise or over-advocate. That must be in keeping with what one senses is an aspect of Lavista's confident and generous personality. To be judged sui generis for sure, these six works are not only different enough one from another, but also amazingly creative enough to repay repeated hearings. As an indication of new directions for the medium, they make every sense. As beautiful works in their own right, they are superb.
Mark Sealey
Lavista's music has enough about it of difference and contrast to appeal to a wide audience. Impeccable performances that both satisfy and whet the appetite. A bit of a find.