The Arditti Quartet

mode 165

Mexico – New Music For Strings


mode 165 The Arditti Quartet – Mexico: New Music for Strings – Juan Felipe Waller’s De jaque, sal, gala y luna; Hebert Vázquez’s String Quartet No. 1; Germán Romero’s Ramas; Iván Naranjo’s Uno; Rogelio Sosa’s Espasmo fulgor; Hilda Paredes’ Uy u’tan.

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Mexico - New Music For Strings
Previously released as a compact disc. (viewed Feb. 7, 2013). Irvine Arditti, violin (1st, 3rd, 5th works) ; Arditti Quartet (remainder). Recorded in 2002.

Juan Felipe Waller (b.1971)
De jaque, sal, gala y luna (1999)   (7:39)
for solo violin

Hebert Vázquez (b.1963)
String Quartet No. 1 (1999)
  Exposición   (9:32)
  Relectura   (8:51)

Germán Romero (b.1966)
Ramas (2002)   (14:24)
for amplified solo violin

Iván Naranjo (b.1977)
Uno (2002)   (13:40)
for string quartet

Rogelio Sosa (b.1977)
Espasmo fulgor (2002)   (10:21)
for violin & electronics

Hilda Paredes (b.1957)
Uy u’tan (1998)   (14:46)
for string quartet

This recording features six of the most inventive younger composers (born between 1957 and 1977) in Mexico’s contemporary music scene.

  • Irvine Arditti and the Arditti Quartet gave the first performances of many of these works for string quartet or solo violin.
  • The works were recorded in 2002 during the first Radar festival, an ongoing yearly project of new and experimental music produced in collaboration with the Festival de México en el Centro Histórico, Mexico City’s foremost annual venue for the arts.
  • Juan Felipe Waller completed his studies with Klaas de Vries at the Rotterdam Conservatory. His work is a distortion of “Deja que salga la luna”, made famous by Pedro Infante, a popular idol from Mexico’s golden age of cinema.
  • A distinctive aspect of Hebert Vázquez’s work is his use of “mega-instruments”, where he divides among two instruments (here viola & cello vs. two violins) a complex part that actually consists of the same idea or gesture. The String Quartet begins in near silence and ends with throbbing white noise.


Germán Romero studied with Julio Estrada, attended the courses at Darmstadt and had a residency at Ateliers UPIC (now CCMIX) in Paris. He is one of Mexico’s most radical composers. Ramas for solo amplified violin focuses the listener’s attention on the richness of the sound’s objects, like the scraping of the bow against the strings.

Iván Naranjo’s first string quartet, Uno, was written for a composition workshop by the Arditti in Mexico at the Radar festival. The work is divided into three parts, with common sounds and gestures: in the first one, ideas follow each other in an untypical flow; in the second, explorations of the insides of sound; and the third is made up of fragments and transformations of the two previous ones, like loops that change slightly every time they are repeated.

Rogelio Sosa studied with Julio Estrada and then in France at the Les Ateliers UPIC, IRCAM and the University of Paris VIII. He has received the Bourges and Russolo prizes for electronic music. In Espasmo fulgor, all interval material comes from the violin’s tuning, playing techniques and timbres; in the electronic part, all original sound material – later transformed – also comes from the violin. This contrasted duality can be observed in obsessive pulsation, surprise attacks, piercing registers, shining timbres, and brilliant textures.

Hilda Paredes is one of the most valuable voices of Mexican contemporary music. The title of Uy u’tan means “listen how they talk” in Mayan. Paredes explains: “When I began writing the piece, I decided to treat the instruments as characters in a play. I considered each one separately: a crazy and hyperactive first violin, a more relaxed and expressive viola, an absentminded cello, and an introverted and sometimes clumsy second violin. The interaction between them provided the shape of the piece, in four sections. Uy u’tan was commissioned by October in Normandie 1998 for the Arditti Quartet.


The Arditti Quartet
Mexico – New Music for Strings

Mode 165

10 BEST OF 2006
November 2006/January 2007

Musical Performance 4 and a half stars
Recording Quality 4 and a half stars
Overall Enjoyment 4 and a half stars

Present-day classical music largely consists of two opposing categories. The bigger strives for accessibility — the kind of thing American symphony orchestras commission in order to rejuvenate their dwindling, aging audiences, and which can often sound flaccid and stale, if not actually DOA.

The other category is an extension of Europe’s mid-century avant-garde. Rather than be dumbed down to a common-denominator comfort zone, it is a body of work that addresses music from various angles as an ongoing link in necessary development. It is often fascinating, sometimes exhilarating, and occasionally sublime. A recent reminder of where this slender thread has led comes, as no surprise, from a significant new-music label, Mode.

None of the five Mexican composers featured on New Music for Strings has adopted American directions, as set forth by John Cage, Morton Feldman, Lou Harrison, Steve Reich, et al. With the exception of Iván Naranjo, they have studied and lived abroad, and it shows. The best known, Hilda Paredes, resides in the UK. Her Uy u’tan (Listen to their language), for string quartet, is music of luminous beauty. Like Uy u’tan, Hebert Vázquez’s String Quartet No. 1 and Iván Naranjo’s Uno for string quartet partake of a “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” attitude. What at first may sound like impenetrable thickets of notes will, upon exposure, reveal individual distinction and nuance.

The program’s three quartets, performed by the Arditti with typical panache, differ substantially, yet share in their disdain of easy accessibility. Germán Romero’s Ramas, for amplified violin, and Rogelio Sosa’s Espamo fulgor, for violin and electronics, bedazzle just as much as the quartets.
— Mike Silverton,, January 2007

The Arditti Quartet
Mexico – New Music for Strings

Mode 165

Elsewhere in North America, the Arditti is in top form, as are its leader’s solos. Sosa’s Espasmo fulgor for Paganini-drenched violin and lithe electronics demands replay. Amazingly, all its electronic sounds derive from the violin. Another solo, Waller’s De jaque, sal, gala y luna, alternates rhapsodic passages with sul ponticello musings and aggressive motifs. Romero’s Ramas amplifies Arditti’s violin, exuding coarse meditation. In Vázquez’s dynamic “Exposición” and “Relectura” paired players must argue amongst themselves as in Ives’ Second, though the biting language echoes Carter and Xenakis. Naranjo’s Uno broadly expounds a vast field with unexpected pacing and juxtapositions. Paredes’ Uy u’tan (“listen how they talk” in Mayan) also explores multiple personalities. Listeners expecting the Ardittis to go native as did the Kronos with Golijov’s help on “Nuevo” (Nonesuch 79649-2) will be disappointed. You’ll hear nothing overtly pop or ethnic, and Revueltas and Esquivel are miles away, yet it would be wrong to characterize these composers as European wannabes. Here’s another neighboring country to explore.
— Grant Chu Covell, La Folia online review, December 2006

The Arditti Quartet
Mexico – New Music for Strings

Mode 165

If I say “Mexico” what images spring to mind? (If you’re Mexican, you can skip this paragraph.) The 68 Olympics, if you’re old enough to remember them (I’m not)? Moustachioed peasants in spaghetti westerns tilling the fields and managing to keep those shirts and pants impossibly white? The bleary-eyed consul staggering up the Calle Nicaragua in Under The Volcano? Bloodthirsty Aztecs sacrificing young virgins on a pyramid in a sweaty jungle? A bowl of chili? (Or is that Tex Mex?) Forget it. If the music on this CD is anything to go by, Mexico might just be the most exciting country in the world of contemporary composition. A stupid claim, that, and not one I’m likely to able to back up, so put it down to unbridled enthusiasm on my part for this magnificent disc by the (insert the superlative of your choice HERE) Arditti Quartet.

The six works featured are by (in order of age, oldest first) Hilda Paredes, Hebert Vásquez, Germán Romero, Juan Felipe Waller, Iván Naranjo and Rogelio Sosa. Three of them are for string quartet – Paredes’ Uy u’tan, Naranjo’s Uno and Vásquez’s Quartet No.1 – and three for Irvine Arditti’s solo violin, with amplification (Romero’s Ramas), added electronics (Sosa’s Espasmo fulgor) or nothing at all (Waller’s De jaque, sal, gala y luna). The twenty-year difference in age between the oldest and youngest featured composer is reflected in the music; the terse motivic workouts of Uy u’tan and the Vásquez Quartet look north to the thorny dramaturgy of Elliott Carter, while the vicious scratches and scrapes, raw microtones and brutal cut’n’splice of Uno and Ramas seem to be gazing across the Atlantic to where the ghost of Iannis Xenakis (Romero and Sosa studied at UPIC) is partying with Walter Zimmermann and Mathias Spahlinger, both of whose music is specifically referenced in Ramas (another link perhaps being the elder statesman of Mexican new music, Julio Estrada, who studied himself with Xenakis before going on to teach Romero and Sosa.) This is a truly magnificent selection of strong, well-written, uncompromising new music – get yourself a copy and you’ll never listen to El Salon Mexico again.
— Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic Review, July 2006


Also by Hilda Paredes on Mode Records:
The Seventh Seed (mode 60)
Listen How They Talk: Chamber Music 1998-2001 (mode 149)

Espacios Intemporales for saxophone quartet (2017) — SIGMA Project (mode 331)

Señales —Señales, “Homenaje a Jonathan Harvey” for violin & ensemble (Irvine Arditti, violin. Ensemble Signal/Brad Lubman); Páramo de voces for piano & tape (Alberto Rosado, piano); Intermezzo malinconico for bass clarinet solo (Adrián Sandi); Homenaje a Remedios Vario; Recuerdos del Porvenir (ensemble recherche) (mode 292)

The Arditti Quartet profile/discography

Iván Naranjo profile

Hilda Paredes profile

Germán Romero profile

Rogelio Sosa profile

Hebert Vázquez profile

Juan Felipe Waller profile

Hilda Paredes Web Site