United States Haydn, Revueltas, Frank, Ponce, and Dvořák: La Catrina Quartet; Meany Hall, Seattle, 30.10.2012 (BJ)
Currently based at New Mexico State University, the La Catrina Quartet is a youthful and talented ensemble whose explorations cover a wide range of repertoire, from the standard classical and romantic works to more exotic music largely drawn from Latin American sources. Just as I am not personally a devotee of fusion cuisine, my taste for music of a crossover character is limited. Nevertheless, the artistry and sheer brio the group brought to this program anchored in masterpieces by Haydn and Dvořák and branching out also to pieces by Revueltas, Frank, and Ponce sufficed to provide me – and an enthusiastic audience – with a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Haydn’s delicious “Lark” Quartet, Op. 64 No. 5, got the proceedings off to an excellent start, the soaring melody that gave rise to the work’s familiar nickname offering first violinist Daniel Vega-Albela an ideal vehicle for his unusually pure and attractive tone. He was well matched in fluency and expression by second violinist Roberta Arruda, while violist Jorge Martínez Rios and cellist César Bourguet supplied effective contrast with some splendidly succulent sound in both solo and ensemble contexts.
The Haydn was followed by Silvestre Revueltas’s Música de Feria, Gabriela Lena Frank’s Leyendas, An Andean Walkabout, and, after intermission, an Intermezzo by Manuel Ponce. The 40-year-old Ms Frank’s music reflects (in the words of the program note) “her Peruvian/Jewish/Chinese and Lithuanian heritage,” and her somewhat amorphous six-movement work seemed to me to fall fairly ineffectively between a variety of stylistic stools, but her technique is assured, and I hope to find more sustenance in whatever pieces of hers I may encounter in the future.
The two short Mexican pieces brought equally excellent performances from the quartet. But the evening’s most gorgeous playing came, appropriately enough in the slow movement of Dvořák’s F major Quartet, Op. 96, known as the “American.” Here Vega-Albela and Bourguet gloried in the solo opportunities given to violin and cello by the composer’s beguiling melodies, Arruda and Martínez Rios filling the intervening register with appropriate discretion. The fast movements were no less well done by all four players, and the warm ovation they received was rewarded, by way of encore, with Mexican composer Eduardo Gamboa’s Cañambú, which featured a few vocal interjections along with its lively instrumental writing.