Spanish composer Alfredo Aracil has written, thus far, four string quartets. They are very modern in conception and bring to mind the phrase ‘all music is sound, but not all sound is music‘. Aracil stretches the boundaries of music with these quartets.
The Third String Quartet, in one movement, runs for 18 minutes. It begins with a solo cello passage, and atonal interjections from the other strings. The violins then pick up the mood and dialogue with the cello. Three minutes in, the cello still predominates, now dropping back to solo again. After around four minutes, the whole ensemble returns. It has now entered the world of sound and possibly left the world of music behind. The violins alternate between shimmering passages and occasional melodic lines. There is an exchange of dissonant lines from the whole ensemble. The violin then soars over the background for a while until it slowly rejoins the ensemble.
At the halfway stage, some music with traditional harmony appears, but it does not last long. It reverts to violin, either solo or played over very busy atonal backdrops. The shimmering returns; the cello probing the music with dissonant melodies. The violin now has a long passage of playing a melody over the second violin and viola. This is pure abstraction, with anxious moments as different instruments offer random interjections. The ending is a gradual coming down until all that is left is – nothing.
I have been listening to avante-garde jazz and classical music since 1970. I love sound and I find this piece quite beautiful. Emotionally it takes me somewhere I have never been before and I like it. Not once does it become either angry or aggressive. To me it describes a bleak landscape.
This piece has been difficult to describe as it often does not use the traditional elements of music.
The review CD is titled String Quartets, performed by the Breton Quartet, on the Verso label (through Naxos) and can be found on Amazon US or UK. It’s also on Spotify. If you want to try it, listen to String Quartet No. 3 which is the first piece – the others are a bit more difficult. You can hear the complete CD on earsense and some movements from Aracil’s quartets are on YouTube.
Listenability: Quite avante-garde