Prima Vista Quartet

Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga: String Quartets

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Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga: String Quartets Review

by Stephen Eddins

Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga has been called the Spanish Mozart both because of the character of his music and some astonishing biographical parallels. He was born 50 years to the day after Mozart, so the fact that his music resembles Mozart marks him as an essentially conservative composer, and he died when he was 19, so it's not surprising that he never developed a fully individual voice. Some of his music does in fact sound much like Mozart, but parts of the three string quartets recorded here just aren't very Mozartian. The Theme and Variations of the second movement of the Quartet in A major, in particular, goes places Mozart would never have gone melodically or harmonically, and the movement is among the composer's most interesting. Arriaga's voice may not have been the most original or distinctive, but it's very pleasant nonetheless, as the popularity of his quartets with both performers and audiences attests. The Prima Vista Quartet, one of Poland's preeminent string quartets, gives performances that are largely satisfying, but not entirely consistent. The group plays with spirit, and obviously has strong affection for and understanding of this repertoire. Intonation is occasionally an issue, and sometimes attacks are not entirely clean. While this is a respectable account of the pieces, it lacks the finesse and polish that make a performance transcendent. Dux's sound is clean, with a good sense of presence.

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