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Remy Franck
Pizzicato, March 2014

ISASI, A.: String Quartets, Vol. 1 (Isasi Quartet) - Nos. 0 and 2 8.572463
ISASI, A.: String Quartets, Vol. 2 (Isasi Quartet) - Nos. 3 and 4 8.572464

Much of the music by Basque composer Andrés Isasi was influenced by his studies in Berlin and has a very evident German touch. So, don’t look for anything Spanish here, but listen to a very fine and rich late romantic music played with much passion by the excellent Isasi Quartet.



Byzantion
MusicWeb International, February 2013

Written just over a decade apart, these two quartets are fairly similar in essence, if less so in practice. Elegance, wistfulness, folk influences, memorable melodies, minor keys and a lack of pretentiousness—these are prominent features of both. Despite their name, the Isasi Quartet are a primarily German ensemble, an attribute that fits rather well with Isasi’s style. This is an impressive debut for Naxos by the Quartet: sympathetic and thoughtful, technically adept and cogent.

Sound quality is pretty good, clean and spacious with just a hint of perforation at the edges. Roll on, volume two. © MusicWeb International Read complete review



Phillip Scott
Fanfare, January 2013

The earlier quartet, numbered zero…shows Grieg’s influence without being a dull carbon copy. The composer uses thematic and rhythmic motifs that share a contour with those of Grieg: the same love of sequential repetition, and a tendency to veer unexpectedly from minor to major and back…

The four-movement second begins with more forthright harmonic clashes—attacked with relish by this excellent ensemble—but soon settles back into a comfortable late-Romantic language, where it stays. Isasi strikes me as more at home in minor keys than major. The Adagio is…the most convincing movement, but the first movement is structurally satisfying, while the third contains a vigorous fugato passage that is also impressive.

This disc is apparently the first of three covering the composer’s output for string quartet. The group named after the composer play his music with appropriate textural richness, pointing up another influence: Brahms. They are cleanly and warmly recorded. © 2013 Fanfare Read complete review



Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, September 2012

With this Naxos release we welcome little known, Spanish-born composer Andrés Isasi…to CLOFO.

The program begins with No. 0…The opening allegro…is downright gorgeous with a standout to-die-for melody…while a feeling of melancholy haunts the lento.

A berceuse with a couple of folkish sounding tunes follows. Then the work closes with a finale…that starts soulfully, but brightens as a couple of lively ideas are introduced.

The world premiere recording of the second quartet written in 1920 follows. Also in four movements, this is a much more progressive piece with an opening allegro…having all the rigor of those furrow-browed movements in Beethoven’s (1770–1827) late quartets (1810–26). The tension is relieved by an introspective adagio…where thematic fragmentation and chromatic manipulation give the music a late-romantic cast.

The next intermezzo…is a curiosity. It starts off with an agitated cheeky opening section…followed by a fugal episode that’s set off like a separate movement…It’s almost as if Isasi pasted on one of his counterpoint exercises for Engelbert—and a very good one at that!

The finale takes the form of another allegro with a couple of memorable themes that are skillfully elaborated. Harmonic diversity holds the listener’s attention, and makes the final recapitulation all the more dramatic as the quartet ends joyously.

The Isasi Quartet is a strong proponent of their namesake’s music, giving us technically polished, moving accounts of these scores. They leave you anxiously anticipating their next installment for Naxos exploring this neglected corner of late romantic chamber music. © 2012 Classical Lost and Found Read complete review



David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2012

Had Andrés Isasi wanted for money he may have done more to promote his music, only two of his eight string quartets seemingly performed during his lifetime. Yet this disc shows a highly gifted composer in this genre, and had his earliest work, dating from his eighteenth year, carried the name of Grieg, it would be well regarded. Born in Bilbao in 1890, his Germanic musical education did not endear him to Spanish audiences, and he took himself to live in the country and to compose in seclusion. Though he was to financially help artists in the Basque region, it appears he was more reticent when proclaiming his own works. That lack of incentive is reflected in the fact that he left three of his eight quartets unfinished on his death at the age of fifty. He certainly knew how a string quartet worked, his constant interchange between dialogue and solo writing bringing the necessary variation, while also giving individual instruments the scope for outgoing virtuosity. Throughout both scores he is never found wanting in attractive melodic inspiration, the finale of the early quartet having a really catchy tune. I have much fallen in love with the unpretentious beauty of both works and I commend them to you. The performances from the German-based quartet obviously share my affection, their tonal quality rounded and warm, while the recorded sound carries the same hallmarks. © 2012 David’s Review Corner






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4:32:43 PM, 29 December 2014
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