JOAQUÍN TURINA – The String Quartet

Spanish Early Modern composer Joaquín Turina Pérez [1882–1949) wrote just one string quartet. It is titled De La Guitarra and is in five movements.

The opening, marked andantino, which apparently can be slightly slower or quicker than andante, starts with a brief chordal fanfare, which is answered by a solo pizzicato cello phrase. The cello then leads the ensemble through an appealing melodic section before the violins eventually take the lead and a deep, distinctive Spanish sound is evoked. Now the violins break free and bring a sense of romance to the music. Superb harmonised melodies slowly rise in intensity but soon return to a calm. A brief recapitulation of the opening moments is heard, followed by a solo violin passage which concludes.

The next movement is optimistic in nature and features warm melodic motifs, again revealing Spanish characteristics. A charming violin melody again is somewhat romantic in nature. A chordal fanfare, similar to the opening of the work is heard and the music moves into a strong tempo, replete with wonderful melodic sections. The cello is very expressive here, intertwining with the violins. A pause leads into another warm, romantic mood as the composer evokes his Spanish roots. A passage of theme and variations is most attractive as the violins investigate new melodies. The end comes with three sustained solo violin tones.

The third movement begins in an introspective manner with the cello slowly leading the ensemble into emotionally lighter territory. After a time the music comes to life in a distinctively Spanish manner, possibly of Andalucian origin. A more measured section is very precious before the violins bring the music to life with striking, rhythmic playing. The mood soon settles however, and an emotional depth is restored. A scintillating chordal flourish finishes the movement.

A lone violin opens the next movement, which is quite slow. The violins create soft, drawn-out melodic statements and there is a great sense of peace here. Now the mood is lightened as the violins express positive melodies for a time before they begin to turn rhapsodic, albeit in a stately manner. A solo cello interlude introduces a joyous, melodic section which again evokes a feeling of romance. The end is unexpected, but beautiful.

Floating melodies introduce the final movement, which soon develops into a sprightly tempo. The violins soar freely, with much impetus, eventually returning to the ground and a gentler feeling – there is great lyricism here, as the melodies continue to develop through several harmonic changes. A brief pause introduces a new section and frantic violins give their all as they explore the Spanish tonalities. The music becomes more powerful before receding again. The conclusion is another flourish, then a sharp chord.

This is a fabulous quartet, filled with joy, sometimes contrasted with feelings of romance. There are two other significant quartet works on the review CD – Serenata and La Oración Del Torero and also a sublime piano quintet, Quinteto En Sol Menor – good value for money here.

The CD is titled Joaquín Turina: Música De Cámara, performed by the Greenwich String Quartet and Brenno Ambrosini on piano. It is freely available on Amazon US and UK.

The CD is on Spotify and several quartet movements are on YouTube. The full version can also be heard on earsense.

Listenability: Wonderful Spanish chamber music.


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