JORDI CERVELLO – A Profound Discovery – Four Suites

Trawling through Spotify recently I came across a beguiling CD by a Catalonian composer Jordi Cervello [1935-], titled simply Quartets. I had not heard of Cervello before so I experienced what turned out to be a long, rewarding first listen. I have a feeling this review will be longer than usual!

The music on the CD does not consist of numbered quartets but rather named suites, each with several movements. For instance, the first suite, Remembrance, contains four movements and runs to about 21 minutes. The first two movements are mostly taken at a slow tempo. They evoke a profound feeling of melancholia and abstraction. Then the tempo quickens and you have a sense of the composer’s Spanish background. I believe there is also a hint of Dvorak to be found here, specifically from Dvorak’s Op. 96 and 97, which I have reviewed earlier (May 2016). This is particularly noticeable with some familiar melodic fragments and the use of trills in the accompaniment. The final movement returns to a magnificent pensive feeling, very slow and soft, but thankfully loud enough to be audible. I have a thing about recording engineers setting the volume way too low; music deserves to be heard …

Dos Movimentos begins with a similar mood. A solo cello lament introduces the piece and plays a prominent part in this slow movement. This is very thought-provoking writing. The second movement is more obviously Spanish, with an appropriate tempo.

The next, five-movement piece is entitled Etuden nach Kreutzer. I’ll have to brush up on my German! This is the most energetic suite on the CD.  However, as with the previous pieces, it also breaks into a sombre mood in places. The up-tempo movements usually have a slightly Spanish feeling.

The final work is A Bach but I cannot readily find anything about Bach in it. To me, it continues with the flavour of the CD, but please don’t assume that it all sounds the same, it certainly doesn’t. The composer finds many ways to express melancholy.

The CD is reminiscent of Haydn’s Seven Last Words … (reviewed May 2016) in that it contains many tempo markings of andante, lento, calmo, poco adagio and calmo espressivo. These all indicate slow or moderate tempos. I shall have to find some synonyms for beautiful, abstract and melancholy because that is what this music is all about.

Obviously, given the above, this disc is ultimately very introspective. My favourite movements in string quartetss are slow, melancholy, abstract and sometimes angular, as opposed to the approach of some modernist composers who deal in anger and aggression. This one really left a mark on me.

As far as I know, there is only one version of these works, by the Atrium Quartet. I have already ordered a copy and it has shipped. I have a feeling from Amazon US and UK that it is going to be harder to obtain soon.

Check it out on Spotify, it might just make your day. There are also some of the quartets on YouTube and all of the works are on earsense.

Listenability: Magnificent melancholy music.


4 thoughts on “JORDI CERVELLO – A Profound Discovery – Four Suites”

  1. Hi Eric, thanks for the info. You’ve certainly done your homework! You are right in saying that they deserve to be heard, I found them to be quite beautiful.
    As an aside, it’s a blog 🙂

  2. Just a few comments, there is another version of “Remembrances” available on a Columna Musica CD “Jordi Cervello & F. Fleta Polo – String Works 20th Century Catalan Composers Collection”. The “quartet” is made up of individual musicians for this recording. As a version, it is recognisably Cervello of course but I feel the version on the Columna Musica CD “Jordi Cervello Quartets” by the Atrium String Quartet is the one to get. Having said all of that, “String Works” is the CD that is generally available through normal web sites like Amazon but you can still obtain copies (I am not sure for how long though) of “Jordi Cervello Quartets” from Columna Musica. If you go to the web site , you can still order the CD. I am posting this because the quartets really do demand to be heard, they are wonderful living and breathing creatures of beauty. Finally, what a wonderful web site John, or blog, what ever it is to be called!

  3. Thanks, Ken. I had never thought of all those possible reasons for listening to music. I only have one – ‘for the story’ 🙂

  4. People listen to music for many different reasons — some purely for entertainment; some for the technical prowess of the composer or the performer; some for a nuanced take on a particular style or school; and some for the story, the set of feelings and impressions transmitted and even transmuted alchemically by the music into a special landscape of emotional experience. Your illuminating take (May 10) on Cervello’s Quartets and on the composer’s superb ability to fashion the type of beautiful and abstract territory you look for — which here is bound by introspection with just the right veils of melancholia — is perfect because it encourages readers not only to listen to Cervello’s soundscapes, but to be shaped by them. Thanks so much for bringing these Quartets to our attention!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.