03 April 2014

Cuarteto Latinoamericano

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a string quartet recital of the Cuarteto Latinoamericano. This was a concert that was part of the South American Music Festival hosted by the Konzerthaus Berlin. Several concerts were planned by different performers playing different music from the South American continent, mostly from composers such as Villa-Lobos, Ginastera, Piazolla, and others. As I generally prefer works of smaller magnitude than symphonic works, I was excited to see that this quartet (which I haven't heard before) was performing as part of this series.

I got tickets for the evening, and sure enough, we were in for a treat. The program for that evening included works that I was already familiar with, as well as other new works that I have not encountered before.

They started with String Quartet No. 2, by Francesco Mignone. Perhaps this was the piece that I didn't like the most. It was not too radical, and felt like it was still back in the post-Romantic era. That being said, the performers still played the piece very professionally.

Then, they played two tangos by Carlos Gardel, Por una cabeza as well as Volver, both arranged for string quartet. Listeners might be familiar with the first one, as this was used in the movie "True Lies" when Arnold Schwarzenegger dances with Jamie Lee Curtis. The second tango, on the other hand, would be familiar to people who watched Pedro Almodovar's movie of the same title. I loved these two pieces, but I have to say that I preferred the original versions better. Somehow, I missed the accordion or the bandoneon with its very distinct musical timbre.

Then comes Four, for tango by Astor Piazolla, who happens to be one of my favorite composers. My god, this piece was explosive. I loved every second of it, and it has Piazolla's signature all over the place. He uses plenty of "radical" techniques in playing the strings, such as bowing behind the bridge, glissandos, and so many others. It kept me literally on the edge of my seat, and I wished that they repeated this piece as part of the encore.

After that, they played Domingo Lobato's String Quartet in G. This was a more modern piece, but I have to say, I still liked the Piazolla piece.

After the pause, they played the last piece of the program, which was String Quartet No. 2, Op. 26 by Alberto Ginastera. This string quartet consists of 5 movements, and every movement kept me at the edge of my seat as well. I love 20th-century music, as it is totally different and brings new blood, so to speak, to the otherwise very rigid and classical image of the music that preceded that period. This was also my favorite piece of the night. I only know Ginastera by name, so this is a good introduction to his music for me.

After the long applause, they played three encores: a movement from a Villa-Lobos string quartet, an arrangement for string quartet of Astor Piazolla's Libertango, and a Mexican folk song, arranged for string quartet. I thought they would stop at the Libertango, because I couldn't think of any other piece that could top that. But they did, and the audience was thoroughly delighted. We also had a great time as well, and I am glad that I had the opportunity to see these performers in action.


  1. Good for you! I always enjoy your cultural outings.

    1. Zhu,

      Thanks! I try to take advantage of the cultural offerings that are available no matter where I am.