Alberto Ginastera's three string quartets are appealing pieces that concisely reflect the various styles that characterized the composer's work over the course of his career. The First Quartet was written in 1948, and the Second in 1958, both during his so-called middle period, which was characterized by a sophisticated modernist take on the folk-like music of his first period, before he moved to a more rigorous serialism in his third period. Ginastera's relationship with folk traditions during this period was roughly analogous with Bartók's, and some of the movements have a distinctly Bartókian sound. The rhythmic drive of the fast movements, in particular, is rooted in popular Argentine music, while the slow movements have a tendency toward mystical, sometimes rhapsodic, lyricism. These are immensely attractive pieces, clearly the work of an exceptionally fertile and imaginative creative mind and should appeal to fans of mid-twentieth century modernism. The Third Quartet is serial and inhabits a more abstract aesthetic universe, but Ginastera managed to bring a strong lyrical element into his serialism, so his music avoids the severity of that of some of his contemporaries. Like Schoenberg's Second Quartet, several movements include a soprano solo, using texts by Juan Ramón Jiménez, Federico García Lorca, and Rafael Alberti. It's a work of dramatic contrasts, the most volatile of the quartets. Lucy Shelton, long a proponent of new music, doesn't have the vocal sheen she once did, and there is some tendency to wobble, but her formidable technique carries her through the music's heavy demands, and the length of time she holds the final note of the last movement sounds nothing less than superhuman. The U.S.-based Enso Quartet handles the varied moods of the music with panache, capable of producing astonishing fireworks as well as playing with intimate lyricism. The sound is clean and well balanced, with a nice resonance.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|String Quartet No.1, Op. 20|
|String Quartet No.2, Op. 26|
|String Quartet No.3 for soprano & string quartet, Op. 40|