Mario Lavista's name may not be all that familiar, but
two of his teachers at the National Conservatory in Mexico City
are among the country's most famous sons: Carlos Chávez
and, by adoption, Rodolfo Halffter. Lavista himself, however,
is of a newer generation, and went on to study electronics,
aleatory and so-called 'extended' techniques with
some even bigger names - Boulanger, Stockhausen and others -
in Europe and Japan.
As the dates indicate, Lavista turned away for some time from
the quartet medium after his 'Diacronía' First.
He was inspired to return by an encounter with the Cuarteto
Latinoamericano, which had only recently formed. A friendship
bloomed and Lavista has written the remaining five quartets
all with this nowadays outstanding ensemble in mind.
Regarding the curious ordering of Lavista's Quartets
on this recording, listeners will appreciate the programmers'
sense in not opening with the First Quartet as soon as they
hear the work - written in Paris, it is by far the most modernist
of the bunch. On the other hand, by the standards of 1969 it
is quite accessible, and that is in fact a fair description
of all these works. Lavista does indeed make use of what were
once, at least, unusual techniques, such as bridge and fingerboard
bowing and artificial harmonics. Mere gratuitous exhibitionism
is never the aim, and, whilst tunefulness in itself is clearly
not either, the now punchy, now mellow rhythms and the auroral
harmonics are ever less than attractively atmospheric. In any
case, with the longest quartet only running to sixteen minutes,
it would be churlish to argue that any idea outstayed its welcome.
Perhaps surprisingly, Lavista's music is not especially
infused with Mexican or Central American flavour. There is perhaps
something of the Aztec exotic or mystical about some of the
quartets - the ethereal Second above all - but on the whole
Lavista has a broadly European sound.
Highlights of the excellent Cuarteto Latinoamericano's
enormous discography include some of Latin America's
most important cycles, such as those by Ginastera (Elan CD82270,
now on Brilliant Classics 9119), Chávez (Urtext JBCC109) and
Villa-Lobos (Dorian DSL-90904), the latter a six-disc-plus-bonus-DVD
bargain. To these must now be added this splendid Lavista cycle,
in which they are once more on top form.
Sound quality is very good. Booklet notes are thorough, thoroughly
interesting and well written. Reliable information on Lavista
is quite hard to come by - he has no personal website and there
are no up-to-date sources, with the exception of Mexico's
- only available to those who know Spanish. As the last of these
six quartets was written in 1999, it would be interesting to
find out whether or not there are any more in the offing, especially
given that Lavista's quartet of muses is still going
In broader terms, there really ought to be many more discs of
Lavista's original music available. The Brodsky Quartet
notably recorded the Second Quartet on Orchid ORC100012 recently,
but others here may well be firsts. At any rate, this Toccata
disc must be the foundation stone of a Lavista collection, which
itself should be part of any serious music lover's plans.
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