Cuarteto Latinoamericano

Clocks: Piano Quintets of the Americas

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The Cuarteto LatinoAmericano has recorded for several labels; here it appears on the inventively named but graphics-challenged Hoot/Wisdom Records label operated by Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. On recordings that cover the entire Western hemisphere the North American component can sometimes be perfunctory, but in this set of three piano quintets the three-movement Piano Quintet in F sharp minor, Op. 67, of Amy Beach is both the centerpiece and the disc's most distinctive attraction. This group, all male and all Latin American with the exception of guest pianist Heather Coltman on both counts, delivers what may well become the standard performance of the Beach piece, which until now has been considered solidly Bostonian and carefully Brahmsian. The first movement's slow introduction, as played here, has a mysterious, psychologically murky effect, and the entire work seems to explode with tension and passion that others have hardly expected was there. The title work, Clocks, Op. 58, by Uruguayan American composer Miguel del Águila, makes an effective and often humorous companion for the Beach quintet, surmounting the risk of cliché inherent in the idea of writing music "akin to an aural visit to a clock museum"; the interest lies in the variety of textures del Águila employs in elaborating on this idea. A vigorous, folk-influenced Charango capriccioso, Op. 90, by del Águila provides an exciting entr'acte with its dance rhythms and unusual instrumental combination of two violins, viola, two cellos, and piano four-hands. Strongly recommended for collections of music from the Americas, and less predictably for those covering music by women.

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