Spanish Basque Late Romantic composer Jesús Guridi Bidaola [1886-1961] wrote just two string quartets. The first was written in 1934, and consists of four movements.
The quartet has a beautifully haunting opening –two harmonised violins are at work here. This melody is developed and briefly moves into a high register. A recapitulation of the opening is brief and leads to a pause, followed by a stately mood, filled with feeling. Another pause leads into a strong harmonised chordal section which in turn, gives way to an alluring passage as the violins sketch out a folk-like melody. A solo cello statement introduces another brief chordal section. The music now becomes more expansive, leading into a cello ostinato while the violins continue with their sumptuous melodies. Another pause brings about a sparse violin duet that develops great feeling. The violins dominate this movement as a further restatement of the opening melody is introduced. The ending is very precious.
The second movement, marked vivace, features a singing solo violin introduction. Occasional ensemble sounds are heard as the violin continues with its mood. A strong cello line appears and complements the general character. A period of two violins leads into a slow passage – this is quite wonderful in its sparsity as the violins overlap with a moving, minor melody. A fluttering cello passage completely changes the mood for a time, adding energy, but the violins conclude the movement on a wispy chord.
The third, adagio movement features the two violins in a lament, the cello and viola add support. This is a sombre mood, with a slight pulse. The violins reach out with a sustained period of great emotional depth – the sound is almost orchestral, the cello again being prominent. The feeling is achingly beautiful. A slight change in the mood is positive and the violins drift towards a faded ending, followed by a closing chord. What a wonderful movement.
The final movement sparkles as the violins duet with the cello in a dance-like manner. There are brief episodes of drama as the violins move forward at a bright tempo. A melodic motif is passed between the violins and cello as the viola provides rhythmic pizzicato interjections, leading to an optimistic mood. Some chordal passages are developed and a rhythmic impetus carries the work to a conclusion, which is a violin flourish.
The review CD, Guridi : Complete String Quartets, performed by the Breton Quartet is on the Naxos label and is available on Amazon US and UK.
Listenability: Slightly Spanish-sounding, melodic Romantic quartet.