California-born composer Gabriela Lena Frank can number Chinese and Lithuanian Jews among her ancestry, but it is a third strand, Peruvian, that has had the most impact on her music. She has been influenced by Bartók and by Ginastera's adaptation of Bartók's ideas to Latin American contexts, and she has also cited Chou Wen-Chung as an influence. Frank manages to create rigorous structures without a hint of pop Latinisms, and yet to make music that's broadly appealing and has a certain relaxed quality that's almost completely lacking in Ginastera. The opening work here, Hilos, was composed in 2010 and makes a good introduction to this contemporary composer. It is for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano. The title, which means Threads, refers both to Peruvian textiles and to the strands of dance music and pictorial themes that are woven together into a larger structure. Each movement is clearly organized tonally and convincingly linked to the others, with a driving finale based on the Peruvian karnavalito rhythm, but along the way there's tremendous diversity in rhythm and melodic shape. The Danza de los Saqsampillos for two marimbas is a rhythmically entrancing short piece and one that every percussionist should get to know, while the Adagio para Amantaní, for cello and piano, depicts a remote and barren Andean mountain lake and its nearby inhabitants; the work makes a striking contrast with the Danza. The final Quijotadas for string quartet is a somewhat more severe work than Hilos, but its pizzicato second movement is full of humor. This is recommended Western-hemisphere chamber music that will bring life to any concert or listening program.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Hilos, for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano|
|Quijotadas, for string quartet|