- Tema variado en cuarteto, for string quartet, Op. 17
Because he barely lived 20 years, Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga composed only a small body of work, which, along with an opera, a symphony, and a handful of pieces in other genres, included the three string quartets and the set of variations presented on this 2014 Glossa release. These lively period performances by La Ritirata, a quartet that plays original string instruments in authentic Classical style, show why Arriaga was dubbed the "Spanish Mozart," perhaps more convincingly than the odd coincidences that he was born on the 50th anniversary of Mozart's birth and was a musical prodigy who died young. Of course, they show his indebtedness to Mozart, perhaps to a degree that it threatens to obscure his own originality. Even so, there is a certain sense of freshness and novelty in this recording, due in part to the finely polished sound of La Ritirata and the group's extraordinary vigor and virtuosity, but also because the music is entertaining and infectious, and something of the youthful Arriaga's wit and playfulness shine through. The reproduction is clear and focused, which is excellent for the sound of the instruments, but also a little unfortunate, insofar as it picks up breathing and other extraneous noises that are especially noticeable on headphones.