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Leo Brouwer: The String Quartets; String Trio

Leo Brouwer: The String Quartets; String Trio

by Havana String QuartetHavana String Quartet

CD(Jewel Case)

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This Grammy-winning album should undoubtedly put Cuba on the classical music map more firmly, with excellent performances from the Havana String Quartet showcasing composer Leo Brouwer's music. Brouwer is a master of texture; one does not listen to this album to come away humming melodies. Rather, the lush dissonances and moods here are to be savored for what they are. The "Quartet No. 1" is more tonal than some of the other works on the album. It begins with a dense, forceful introduction that indeed pays homage to Bartók. There are exciting bow attacks; ethereal, eerie passages of tone color; and layer upon layer of chords and dissonances. Played by anyone else, this music could sound random or dull; here, the musicians give each line shape, feeling, and meaning. Each of the instruments matters and holds its own place in the composition. "Quartet No. 2" is quite unusual and clever. It alternates cacophony with silence, and then spins out with snippets of other famous classical works woven in, such as Paganini's "24th Caprice," Beethoven's "Fifth Symphony," and Vivaldi's "Four Seasons." The "String Trio" is a rather playful composition overall. It begins with bright syncopations in the first movement, followed by lively trills in the second. The third movement is indeed calmo and poignant. The precise pizzicato never misses a note in the fourth movement, and the trio concludes with an incredible sense of urgency at the end. "Quartet No. 4" shows how well the musicians play together: their dynamics swell at the same time, they chase each other in a fugal passage, and their bows strike the notes firmly. Perhaps the most exciting part of this quartet is a brief section where it becomes jazz-like. Here, the Havana String Quartet shows off Brouwer's gifts of writing well for string instruments. The "Quartet No. 1" is more tonal than some of the other works on the album. Like the first quartet, "Quartet No. 3" is also quite tonal. The ethereal violin floats above the lower voices, which undulate like waves: it is positively hypnotic and meditative. The lines intertwine in the second movement, much like the wind, taking their time, pausing here and there. There is no mistaking the clock ticking at the beginning and end of the fourth movement, with shrieking strings like shards of music. Certainly, critics might think some of the music sounds alike after a while or that it lacks a clear sense of melody. But if the listener gets into the right space, this album is very rewarding with its clever textures and brilliant construction. ~ V. Vasan

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Product Details

Release Date: 08/09/2011
Label: Zoho Music
UPC: 0880956110820
catalogNumber: 201108
Rank: 148440


  1. String Quartet No. 3
  2. String Quartet No. 4 ("Rem Tene Verba Sequentur II")
  3. String Trio
  4. String Quartet No. 2 ("Rem Tene Verba Sequentur")
  5. String Quartet No. 1

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