Jesús Guridi: Complete String Quartets / Bretón String Quartet


Coming from Naxos' growing Spanish Classics line is this new recording of String Quartets nos. 1 & 2 by Jesús Guridi. These two fine chamber works are performed by the Bretón String Quartet, themselves formed with the express purpose of expanding the recorded catalog of quartets by Spanish composers. The group plays beautifully, and I hope that they continue to explore and bring to light other deserving works like these fine Guridi quartets.

Jesús Guridi (1886-1961) was one of a number of Spanish composers that included Manuel de Falla and Joaquin Turina working in the early 20th century who sought to put forth a uniquely Spanish musical identity. Guridi's best known works include the operetta El Caserío, the opera Amaya, and Ten Basque melodies for orchestra. Not including an abandoned early effort, the composer came late to the sting quartet genre, completing his String Quartet no. 1 in 1933 when he was nearing fifty years of age, and the Second Quartet in 1949.

Guridi's musical language is that of the late romantic period, with a chromatic tonality inherited from Wagner and a sensuous harmonic aura that is frequently reminiscent of the impressionism we associate with Debussy and Ravel. The music draws a melodic inspiration from the Basque folk culture, peculiar to a region overlaying north-central Spain and south-western France. The French connection in his music is no doubt further influenced by Guridi's years of study in Paris and Brussels with Vincent d'Indy and Joseph Jongen.

The music is harmonically and melodically sophisticated. There are many very beautiful passages, notably the serene and achingly beautiful conclusion to the Adagio sostenuto movement from the String Quartet No. 2. I came across a YouTube video of the Bretón Quartet performing this movement and have posted it below (note that it is sonically and musically inferior to what you can hear on the CD). You can also hear the complete final movement of this same quartet in the video sample to be found in the right sidebar.

The second movement Adagio sostenuto from the String Quartet no. 2 of Jesús Guridi