Campo String Quartets Nos 5 and 13
Enormously prolific as a composer, influential as a quartet player, conductor (a co-founder of Spain’s National Radio Orchestra) and critic, and more especially as the acclaimed teacher of a whole generation of composers, Falla’s contemporary Conrado del Campo has been all but totally neglected by record companies (except Hispavox). His 14 string quartets fall into two distinct periods 30 years apart; and here we are offered one rewarding example from each. Quartet No. 5 (1908), the least unknown of the early group, was conceived as a musical reflection of various of the Rimas by the nineteenth-century poet Becquer (the ‘Spanish Heine’): originally in six movements, it was later revised and published in four, of which the very individual scherzo is considered a high point in Spanish chamber music – though the last two movements are equally impressive. The work is serious-minded in a romantic tradition accused at the time of being too Teutonic; but few are likely to complain at its Beethovenian influences, its craftsmanship or its emotionalism (at its most intense in the Andante). The long Thirteenth Quartet, more light-hearted overall, was intended to convey the spirit of Madrid in the reign of Carlos III; nevertheless it is free from facile Hispanicisms, and in the Nocturno rises to an eloquence to which the admirable Brodsky Quartet does full justice. Its playing throughout the disc, indeed, merits the highest praise, as does the recording quality. Incidentally, I read that the Quartet, whose members are still only in their thirties, was founded in 1972 – which must constitute an all-time record in precocity. You work it out …'