Lavista: String Quartets
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Mario Lavista: Complete String Quartets

Catalogue Number: TOCC0106
EAN: 5060113441065
Release Date: 13 June 2011
Duration: 72:54

String Quartet No. 2
String Quartet No. 3
String Quartet No. 4
String Quartet No. 5
String Quartet No. 1
String Quartet No. 6

Cuarteto Latinoamericano, string quartet

The influences on the work of Mario Lavista (b. 1943), Mexico’s leading contemporary composer, range from mediaeval, religious and folk music to modernism. His music has a powerful sense of atmosphere and colour – the Second String Quartet, Reflejos de la noche, is played entirely on harmonics – and a vigorous rhythmic drive reminiscent of the quartet-writing of Shostakovich.

Booklet texts   (PDF)

Track Listing, MP3 Downloads and Streaming Samples

Track No. Track Title / Details Duration Sample Add to Cart
1 String Quartet No. 2, Reflejos de la noche (1984)

Mario Lavista, composer
Cuarteto Latinoamericano, string quartet

(first complete recording)
1 Sempre a tempo, con una grande precisione ritmica 10:44 play
2-6 String Quartet No. 3, Música para mi vecino (1995)

Mario Lavista, composer
Cuarteto Latinoamericano, string quartet

(first complete recording)
2 Largamente, flessibile 1:58 play
3 Presto 1:52 play
4 Molto allegro 2:01 play
5 Allegro leggiero 2:25 play
6 Molto lento, flessibile 4:17 play
7 String Quartet No. 4, Sinfonías (1996)

Mario Lavista, composer
Cuarteto Latinoamericano, string quartet

(first complete recording)
7 Lento, da lontano, come una bruma sonora 16:31 play
8-14 String Quartet No. 5, Siete invenciones (1998)

Mario Lavista, composer
Cuarteto Latinoamericano, string quartet

(first complete recording)
8 Invención I: Presto 1:01 play
9 Invención II: Motete isorritmico (Moderato) 1:43 play
10 Invención III: Andante con moto 1:24 play
11 Invención IV: Andante tranquillo 0:58 play
12 Invención V: Presto 2:10 play
13 Invención VI: Lento flessibile 2:27 play
14 Invención VII: Molto allegro con brio 1:33 play
15 String Quartet No. 1, Diacronía (1969)

Mario Lavista, composer
Cuarteto Latinoamericano, string quartet

(first complete recording)
15 Lento 8:00 play
16-20 String Quartet No. 6, Suite en cinco partes (1999)

Mario Lavista, composer
Cuarteto Latinoamericano, string quartet

(first complete recording)
16 I. Danza 1:27 play
17 II. Motete 1:48 play
18 III. Canon 1:51 play
19 IV. Coral 4:38 play
20 V. Estudio 4:06 play


Mario Lavista

Mario Lavista, composer

Cuarteto Latinoamericano

Cuarteto Latinoamericano, string quartet


The foundation stone of a Lavista collection

Mario Lavista’s name may not be all that familiar, but two of his teachers at the National Conservatory in Mexico City are among the country’s most famous sons: Carlos Chávez and, by adoption, Rodolfo Halffter. Lavista himself, however, is of a newer generation, and went on to study electronics, aleatory and so-called ‘extended’ techniques with some even bigger names – Boulanger, Stockhausen and others – in Europe and Japan.

As the dates indicate, Lavista turned away for some time from the quartet medium after his ‘Diacronía’ First. He was inspired to return by an encounter with the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, which had only recently formed. A friendship bloomed and Lavista has written the remaining five quartets all with this nowadays outstanding ensemble in mind.

Regarding the curious ordering of Lavista’s Quartets on this recording, listeners will appreciate the programmers’ sense in not opening with the First Quartet as soon as they hear the work - written in Paris, it is by far the most modernist of the bunch. On the other hand, by the standards of 1969 it is quite accessible, and that is in fact a fair description of all these works. Lavista does indeed make use of what were once, at least, unusual techniques, such as bridge and fingerboard bowing and artificial harmonics. Mere gratuitous exhibitionism is never the aim, and, whilst tunefulness in itself is clearly not either, the now punchy, now mellow rhythms and the auroral harmonics are ever less than attractively atmospheric. In any case, with the longest quartet only running to sixteen minutes, it would be churlish to argue that any idea outstayed its welcome.

Perhaps surprisingly, Lavista’s music is not especially infused with Mexican or Central American flavour. There is perhaps something of the Aztec exotic or mystical about some of the quartets – the ethereal Second above all – but on the whole Lavista has a broadly European sound.

Highlights of the excellent Cuarteto Latinoamericano’s enormous discography include some of Latin America’s most important cycles, such as those by Ginastera (Elan CD82270, now on Brilliant Classics 9119), Chávez (Urtext JBCC109) and Villa-Lobos (Dorian DSL-90904), the latter a six-disc-plus-bonus-DVD bargain. To these must now be added this splendid Lavista cycle, in which they are once more on top form.

Sound quality is very good. Booklet notes are thorough, thoroughly interesting and well written. Reliable information on Lavista is quite hard to come by – he has no personal website and there are no up-to-date sources, with the exception of Mexico’s Colegio Nacional – only available to those who know Spanish. As the last of these six quartets was written in 1999, it would be interesting to find out whether or not there are any more in the offing, especially given that Lavista’s quartet of muses is still going strong.

In broader terms, there really ought to be many more discs of Lavista’s original music available. The Brodsky Quartet notably recorded the Second Quartet on Orchid ORC100012 recently, but others here may well be firsts. At any rate, this Toccata disc must be the foundation stone of a Lavista collection, which itself should be part of any serious music lover’s plans.

Byzantion MusicWeb International 13th February 2013

Kaleidoscopic sound world

Mario Lavista was born in Mexico City in 1943. His formal musical education commenced at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música in 1963 where he studied under Carlos Chávez, Héctor Quintanar, and Rodolfo Halffter. After receiving a scholarship from the French government, he subsequently studied at the Schola Cantorum under Jean-Etienne Maria and attended courses given by Henri Pousseur, Nadia Boulanger, Christoph Caskel, and Karlheinz Stockhausen. I cite these teachers because their influences can all be found, to greater or lesser extents, in these string quartets. But that is far from the whole story when one confronts their highly original soundworlds. In 1972 Lavista was invited to work at the electronic-music studio of NHK in Japan. He also experimented with aleatory procedures, and at the end of the 1970s he began an ongoing exploration of extended instrumental techniques, which, in these quartets include bowing on the bridge, bowing over the fingerboard, natural and artificial harmonics, sweeping glissandi, etc. When one adds strategically placed moments of improvisation by the performers, a sense of Lavista’s kaleidoscopic sound world can be had, at least in the abstract world of words. What I cannot convey in words is Lavista’s striking and ever-fertile imagination. For that, you’ll just have to hear the music.

For years I have thought that Mexican music presented a logical progression from Chávez through Revueltas and finally to the Spanish-born Rodolfo Halffter. Given my subsequent research in preparation for this review, I’ve found that progression to be largely bogus. Chávez and Revueltas were both born in 1899, Halffter in 1900. When Lavista was experimenting with electronic music and extended instrumental techniques, Chávez, the most conservative of the three, was involved in the final revision of his opera El amor propiciado, completed in 1956 and retitled Los visitantes for a production to be mounted in Aptos, California, in 1973. The one thing that all these composers have in common is their evocation of Mexico’s indigenous musics in all their primordial intensity. The spirits of the Aztecs haunt much of this music.

String Quartet No. 1, “Diacronia,” completed in Paris in 1969, is the most Schoenbergian of these quartets. It presents a superbly crafted eight minutes of utterly cogent music, but provides only hints of the quartets yet to come. Lavista returned to the form some 15 years later. The catalyst was his newfound friendship with the Cuarteto Latinoamericano. As was the case with so many composers of the past’s finest works, Lavista found, and finds, inspiration from brilliant instrumentalists. I have been the group’s admirer for years, having first encountered it on the Dorian and Elan labels. The first of the works that evolved from this collaborative friendship was String Quartet No. 2, “Reflejos de la noche” — a work inspired by the Mexican poet Xavier Villaurrutia titled Eco:
    The night plays with the noises copying them in its mirrors of sounds
The entire quartet is played only on harmonics, and the result is one of the most moving of nocturnes, after Bartók, I have yet encountered.

I won’t get into the remaining four quartets other than to say that each was similarly inspired by the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, and each has its own distinctive character.

All composers inherit the music of the past along with that of their own time. From that, the best of them forge their own inimitable languages, pushing the envelope forward and becoming the classics of the future. Mario Lavista is, unequivocally, in that category.

The sound is excellent — close up, but with lots of air and color.

I can’t imagine better performances of this most intriguing and satisfying music.

So here you have it — the complete string quartet output to date of Mario Lavista in Want List-quality performances. So, do yourself a favor …

William Zagorski Fanfare November 2011


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