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Ruperto CHAPÍ (1851-1909)
String Quartet No. 1 in G Major (1903) [36:36]
String Quartet No. 2 in F Major (1904) [34:38]
Cuarteto Latinoamericano (Álvaro Bitrán (violin I); Arón Bitrán (violin II); Saúl Bitrán (viola); Javier Montiel (cello))
rec. Sono Luminus Studios, Boyce, Virginia, USA, 14-16 Jan 2014
DORIAN SONO LUMINUS DSL-92185 [71:14]

Here is what I take to be the first of two CDs of Chapi's four string quartets. These works come from the composer's high maturity (1903-1907). The performances are virtuoso affairs just as expected. This is, after all, the Cuarteto Latinoamericano. This quartet seems ever open to new repertoire and their CD heritage stretches far and wide across South America: Ginastera, Lavista, Villa-Lobos, Ponce, Halffter, Revueltas and Chavez.

If you want all four Chapi string quartets now then they are available (after a fashion) courtesy of the Brodsky. That set from the Spanish domestic label Autor was expertly reviewed here by Christopher Webber in 2003; a pity we do not hear more from him especially in relation to Iberian music. I have not heard that set. There are other Chapi discs including at least two that include his single Symphony (Naxos; Columna Musica). Otherwise he is known for numerous zarzuelas and other works for the Spanish lyric stage. Perhaps we will also at some point get to hear his tone poem Los gnomos de la Alhambra.

The first two Chapi quartets are big four-movement works. They are not revolutionary but they are diverting and never dull. The First Quartet's Allegro moderato is poignant, sauntering and urbane. It feels nostalgic in the manner of Smetana's First. The Andante mosso is smooth but with a sultry Iberian accent. Next comes an evocation of the hard foot-tapping fury of a zapateado - joyous and deeply gutsy. The final Moderato boasts virile playing. It's always tuneful yet not at all simple-minded. It then becomes abstracted and inwardly probing. The music is enlivened by Hispanic fantasy of the type Lalo and Saint-Saens would have recognised and a tear is not far away.

The Allegro moderato of the Second Quartet displays a Falla-like wildness: the playing is possessed. The Allegretto harks back to the man-about-town urbane elegance of Chapi's First Quartet. The third movement is an Allegro molto vivace flecked with invention that might well have been influenced by Chabrier's España. There's a persistent pizzicato from the second violin. The music becomes Mephistophelean and sinister. The Quasi presto is tempestuously Hispanic then warm and regretful. It is driven by a seemingly constantly fuelled energy and ends in an explosive stamping whirl of virtuosity. Chapi was clearly able to dig deep into a potent vein of fantasy and into a generously stocked heart and imagination.

The stirring upfront recording has been made in 24 bit 192khz 7.1 surround but I heard it in standard digital stereo. This delivers a full-lipped, big and enveloping sound yet is not claustrophobic or tiring to listen to.

While enjoying this disc and waiting impatiently for volume 2 you could try some other rare and rewarding string quartets including those by Alfred Hill (Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, Volume 5, Volume 6), E J Moeran, Bax (especially No. 1) and Kodaly. More to the geographical point do seek out the Naxos discs of quartets by Jesus Guridi and Andrés Isasi (Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3) for fresh and worthwhile string quartet experiences.

Rob Barnett
 

 

 




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