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David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2011

The third volume in the complete chamber music by the Spanish-born composer, Rodolfo Halffter, contains his complete works for string quartet. Born in 1900, it was to be in his adopted home in Mexico that he composed most of his major works, his quartets spread over almost twenty years. The earliest, given the formal title String Quartet opus 24, was completed in 1958, its four short movements forming one of his experiments in combining twelve-tone techniques within a conventional classical idiom. Unlike much atonal music of the time, the result is a readily approachable score with some unusual and engaging sonorities. Four years later came a commission that resulted in the Tres movimientos, Halffter having now returned to pure atonality, though conservative ears may well find much to enjoy in the finale bubbling allegro. Ocho tientos was part of his final group of works in which he looked to compose eight short pieces going far beyond serialism yet looking back to the sixteenth century. In a curious way he managed to combine the two often in good humour. The performances from the Madrid-based Breton String Quartet are so crystalline in quality as to open up each score to close scrutiny, the complexity of intonation never made apparent…At little more than fifteen minutes, it is quite short, the quirky central movement leading to an animated finale. Very good sound.

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