RAMÓN BARCE (1928-2008): Complete String Quartets - Nos. 1, 2, 3 "Cuartetto Gauss", 4, 5, 6, 7 "de la Salud", 8, 9, 10 and 11 "Pieza para cuarteto".
Catalogue Number: 08P069
Reference: VRS 2120
Description: A composer of great intellectual and philosophical integrity, bringing these attributes to bear on his musical activities in a quest for an abstract music with its own inherent logic and meaning, Barce seems to have been drawn to the quartet medium, as these eleven distinguished specimens chart the course of much of his compositional career. The clarity and transparency of the ensemble made it an ideal proving-ground for his compositional theories, and throughout the cycle on is struck by the exemplary expressive clarity of his writing. The First dates from 1958, and is clearly influenced by a rigorous, Webernian approach to organization of a serial work. Starting in 1965, the year of the Second Quartet, Barce started employing his own serial technique, the 'System of Levels', which produces a series of note-rows from the 12 notes of the chromatic scale by constructing 'serial modes' starting on different notes of the scale. The Second makes no secret of the origin of the basic material, in solo expositions of the rows; the technique is then integrated into the composer's evolving expressive voice in the subsequent quartets. No. 3, subtitled Gauss after the great German mathematician. The work plays continuously, and hints at a kind of subtle, controlled expressionism, with some sparingly used noise textures suggesting natural phenomena amongst the rigorous technical argument of the music. The Fourth and Fifth begin a series of cogently argued, multiple-movement quartets in the composer's fully mature voice, which followed in close succession through the mid-1970s. Each movement has its own distinct character; no two sound alike, each expressing its own intellectual and emotional argument, like successive chapters in an ongoing story, with new events to describe. As this suggests, the composer's method is anything but inflexible; the tender slow movement of the Fifth, for instance, has more than a whiff of tonality about it, as does the sprightly, somewhat Shostakovichian Sixth, with its persistent ostinato propulsion in the first movement (this turns up again in the central 'scherzo' of No.10), and lyrical pathos in the second. In general, in the 'mature' quartets, there is less of a sense of experimentation than in the first three; Barce now seems fully confident in his expressive resources to conduct whatever dialectical discourse, in whatever mood, he chooses. The Seventh has a certain austerity of line, harking back to Second Viennese æsthetics, while the Ninth, heralding a final period of greater economy of texture, introduces extended use of pitch-bending, which recurs in the following works, lending a plaintive, vocal quality to the melodic line. 3 CDs. Cuarteto Leonor.