Juan Crisóstomo de ARRIAGA (1806-1826)
String Quartet No. 1 in D minor (1824) [24:14]
String Quartet No. 2 in A major (1824) [23:09]
String Quartet No. 3 in E flat major (1824) [26:36]
Guarneri Quartet (Arnold Steinhardt (violin); John Dalley (violin); Michael Tree (viola); David Soyer (cello))
rec. February 1995.
NEWTON CLASSICS 8802074 [74:52]
Bilbao-born Arriaga, like the composer whose music his most resembles, was also a precocious child. Like Mozart he died young but in his case at age 20. Mozart lived longer and produced more both year for year and in absolute terms. Arriaga wrote only these three quartets, a symphony and a couple of operas alongside some sacred choral works and piano pieces. Arriaga’s freshly inspired three quartets have been recorded several times including by Camerata Boccherini (Naxos) and Prima Vista (Dux).

For all of Graham Rogers’ protestations in the useful liner-note these works do have a strong redolence of Mozart. In a blind testing most people would guess Mozart. Try the first movement of No. 1 where the dialogue takes us directly to the Mozart of the K361 Sinfonia Concertante. At times the music might lean back towards Haydn at others forwards to Schubert. But who else would you have guessed from the start of the finale of No. 1 other than Mozart. The Second Quartet has something of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik about it - grace, chuckling affability, slurred song and lissom dignity . The Guarneri sound is warm and front-centre and their style is viscerally intense. This is music interpreted from within the sinews and musculature of the score. The four players unblinkingly confront the listeners’ ears and mind with the aural equivalent of an unnervingly unwavering stare. It is intriguing to speculate what would have happened to Arriaga had he lived on - even had he lived into his thirties as did Mozart let alone having stayed on into his fifties like Beethoven. All we know is that his teacher in Paris, Francois-Joseph Fétis had nothing more to teach Arriaga after only two years.

For our part all we need to do is to think ourselves fortunate indeed that these three quartets have survived. Wonderful warm classical music-making.
Rob Barnett 

Wonderful warm classical music-making.