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Ponce: Petite Suite, 4 Miniatures, Etc


Release Date: 10/09/2007 
Label:  Urtext   Catalog #: 149   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Manuel Ponce
Performer:  Alvaro BitránArón BitránJavier MontielSaúl Bitrán
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cuarteto LatinoamericanoLatinoamericano String Quartet members
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



PONCE String Quartet. String Trio. Sonata for Violin and Viola. Petite Suite dans le style ancien. Miniatures Qrt Latinoamericano URTEXT 149 (73:10)


Composers regularly turn to the medium of string chamber music to express their most inward and personal thoughts—especially late in their composing careers. One thinks of Fauré’s String Quartet or Roussel’s String Trio, not to mention the late quartets of Beethoven. That is certainly the case with two of the three main Read more works here, by Mexican composer Manuel Ponce (1882–1948). Of an earlier generation than the earthy Chavez and Revueltas, Ponce was nevertheless a self-proclaimed nationalist, and much of his output for orchestra, piano, and guitar underlines that point. As the Latin American equivalent of the Spanish Turina, he first became established by writing attractive folk-based music with an impressionistic bent, and famously composed the popular song Estrellita (“Little Star”), a tune that would have made Ponce a fortune had he not sold off the rights prior to its international success—something he bitterly regretted for decades.


By the time of his duo Sonata (1938) and String Trio (1943), Ponce had intensified his harmonic language, leaving his early nationalistic manner behind. (While never adopting a 12-tone approach himself, he lectured on Schoenberg’s music in the 1940s.) These two works, plus the String Quartet written at the age of 50, represent a mature musical mind at its most inquiring and concise.


The Trio begins with a flowing, melancholy Allegro non troppo, packed with relentless counterpoint. A brief Minuet follows, in which the counterpoint becomes more imitative. The third movement, Canción, Andante espressivo , opens with a minor-key lament from the cello, which is then developed, much of it over a pedal note. Finally, a bright dance-like Rondo brings the trio to a close in a flourish of scale passages; melodically, this movement has the most overt Hispanic feel.


The duo Sonata is for the unusual combination of violin and viola. Its Allegro moderato first movement is episodic, with several tempo changes. A striking passage pits the violin in high register against urgent repeated notes from the viola. The movement is decisively terminated by four sforzando chords. The second movement is a lovely chorale-like saraband, stately and antique in style, followed by an Allegro finale in 3/4. In both works, concision is a byword.


The String Quartet which opens the CD is the most substantial work and, at around 26 minutes, the longest. Here Ponce’s string-writing displays a thickness of texture similar to that of the contemporary quartets of Honegger. The energetic first movement contains a warm and lyrical central section. A solemn, fugal interlude follows, itself succeeded by an expressive slow movement. The propulsive Finale, marked Vivo , broadens from time to time to accommodate a sweet episode featuring the violins in thirds: an echo of the sunny charm that characterizes the composer’s piano music. This is a fine quartet that really ought to be programmed occasionally.


The earlier works (the four Miniatures and Petite Suite ) are by no means negligible. The latter is notable for a light scherzando prelude and a brisk fugal finale; it might be regarded as the Mexican equivalent of Grieg’s Holberg Suite.


This disc is being issued to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Cuarteto Latinoamericano. Over the years, they have made many excellent recordings of Latin American quartets, some more than once. On this CD they play what must be relatively unfamiliar music with their usual clarity and attack. They have recorded the Trio before, I believe, but I have not been able to track down that performance.


Urtext places the quartet and/or various members thereof in a close but well-balanced acoustic. I think the sound would have benefited from a little more space around it; in comparison, they sound fuller and more mellifluous in their complete set of the Villa-Lobos quartets (now available as a bargain box from Brilliant Classics). Still, that is a minor point. It is good to have Ponce’s chamber music for strings available, and when you hear it alongside his late Violin Concerto (memorably recorded by Szeryng), you realize he is an important figure who demands reassessment.


FANFARE: Phillip Scott
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Works on This Recording

1. Trio for Strings by Manuel Ponce
Performer:  Alvaro Bitrán (Cello), Arón Bitrán (Violin), Javier Montiel (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cuarteto Latinoamericano
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; Mexico 
Date of Recording: 10/2003 
Venue:  Silvestre Revueltas Hall, Mexico City 
Length: 16 Minutes 35 Secs. 
2. Quartet for Strings by Manuel Ponce
Performer:  Saúl Bitrán (Violin), Alvaro Bitrán (Cello), Javier Montiel (Viola),
Arón Bitrán (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cuarteto Latinoamericano
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1929 
Date of Recording: 10/2003 
Venue:  Silvestre Revueltas Hall, Mexico City 
Length: 25 Minutes 40 Secs. 
3. Sonata for Violin and Viola by Manuel Ponce
Performer:  Javier Montiel (Viola), Arón Bitrán (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Latinoamericano String Quartet members
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 10/2003 
Venue:  Silvestre Revueltas Hall, Mexico City 
Length: 13 Minutes 19 Secs. 
4. Petite Suite dans le style ancien by Manuel Ponce
Performer:  Javier Montiel (Viola), Arón Bitrán (Violin), Saúl Bitrán (Violin),
Alvaro Bitrán (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cuarteto Latinoamericano
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 10/2003 
Venue:  Silvestre Revueltas Hall, Mexico City 
Length: 10 Minutes 32 Secs. 
5. Miniatures (4) for String Quartet by Manuel Ponce
Performer:  Arón Bitrán (Violin), Javier Montiel (Viola), Alvaro Bitrán (Cello),
Saúl Bitrán (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cuarteto Latinoamericano
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 10/2003 
Venue:  Silvestre Revueltas Hall, Mexico City 
Length: 7 Minutes 8 Secs. 

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