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Jesús GURIDI (1886-1961)
String Quartet No. 1 in G (1933) [23:23]
String Quartet No. 2 in A minor (1949) [31:52]
Bretón String Quartet (Anne-Marie North (violin I); Antonio Cárdenas (violin II); Iván Martín (viola); John Stokes (cello))
rec. Musicstry Studios, Madrid, Spain, 31 October, 1, 30 November 2011 (1); 5-6, 10 February 2012 (2). DDD

I associate the Basque composer Guridi with vividly coloured nationalist orchestral music. That said, we should not overlook the operas and zarzuelas. How did he approach the more naturally subdued world of the string quartet? 

The First Quartet was premiered in Bilbao two years before the start of the Spanish Civil War. It is a light, highly melodious, folk-inflected work. Its four movements are a sumptuous blend of Smetana in song and Ravel in illuminated textures. The second movement reminded me of the skippingly carefree Bax First Quartet. After a touching Adagio we make a welcome return to the happy writing of the first two movements. The Second Quartet is grounded in much the same grittily immediate melos with some extremely tender writing along the way. The harmonic world is sometimes more saturated and complex but the yearning lyric impulse is sovereign. It was premiered in Madrid in 1950.
The vibrantly raw and edgily up-front tone of the Bretón Quartet has been majestically caught by the engineers. One could never describe the playing or the sound as grey.
There is an alternative 1998 recording of the two Guridi quartets by the Enesco Quartet on Ensayo ENYCD9706. I have not heard this but I note that its playing time is 53 minutes - so some 2 minutes faster than the Bretón. It is now only available as a download.
The Naxos insert essay is by Carlos Magán and is in both Spanish and English. It provides all the necessary context to complete the experience.
Naxos have already done inspired and fulfilled work for Guridi as his opera Amaya (Marco Polo 8.225084-85) and the Sinfonia Pirenaica (1945) on 8.557631 and Basque Melodies (1941) on 8.557110 go to show. Then there are two other notable discs: a collection of piano music on 8.557633 and the zarzuela Caserio on 8.557632. One must hope for more Guridi revivals.
It is noted that this recording was made possible because of the sponsorship of Laurent López Morales (Luthier) and Musicstry Studios.
These fresh and well-chosen revivals merit wider attention from anyone with a predilection for the string quartets of Ravel, Kodály, Bax or Moeran.
Rob Barnett