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Alberto Ginastera: String Quartet No. 1 Op. 20; Piano Quintet Op. 29

Piazzolla/Bragato: Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas

Ernesto Halffter: String Quartet in A minor

Wigmore Hall, 11 April


Assai String Quartet /Alberto Portugheis (piano)


Part of ILAM's Ginastera Festival 2006, this concert was interesting in revealing a sequence of unfamiliar novelties, but unsatisfying as a whole.

It must be rare to have heard Ginastera's String Quartet No. 1 twice in a week in UK, and tonight's Spaniards made a pale impression after the gutsy account of it by the USA's Enso Quartet at RAM in the London String Quartet Competition.

The Assais came to life in the Piazolla piano quintet, perhaps stimulated by Alberto Portugheis's forceful piano playing. Although Piazolla in his "classical" mode tends to overlong movements which risk outstaying their welcome, Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas was, unexpectedly, the most enjoyable item in retrospect.

Ernesto Halffter's String Quartet (1923 Ensayo CD ASIN: B000027L0K) available from Amazon) was a pleasant piece of froth; short breathed, little phrases repeated before moving on to the next idea; with exotic extras - a slapping pizzicato and a rasping effect by rubbing on the tailpiece of one of the violins.

These were each worth hearing once, but we don't feel a need to listen to them again; Ginastera's piano quintet (1963) "his first to utilise the 12-tone method, with considerable assurance" prompted a small exodus before it finished, and is one to positively avoid.

* ° Not to our taste, but check out the recording by Alberto Portugheis and the Bingham Quartet [ASV CDDCA902] praised by Lionel Salter in Gramophone; "if I had a hat I'd raise it high to the intrepid performers here".

° And see fuller (and more sympathetic) review by Richard Whitehouse in Seen&Heard.

© Peter Grahame Woolf