Cuarteto Latinoamericano

Mexican Romantic Quartets

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The Cuarteto Latinoamericano has specialized in neglected repertoire of the Western hemisphere (including the U.S.), but few of their releases have unearthed music as unusual as this. On the bill are four works for string quartet by Mexican composers, dating from between 1889 and 1961, all of which partly or entirely avoid the use of folkloric materials for which Mexican and Latin American concert music in general is best known. They all could be classed as Romantic in style, and as Saúl Bitrán points out in his extensive booklet notes (in Spanish and English, accompanied by a more philosophical set of reflections by Ricardo Miranda), there are strong commonalities among them. The full-scale string quartets by Alfonso de Elías, Domingo Lobato, and Alfredo Carrasco, for example, all do turn to Mexican rhythms in their finales, rather in the manner of Dvorák's chamber music. Given all this, each work has its own flavor. The Cuarteto en sol (Quartet in G) by Domingo Lobato, from 1958, features encroachments of modernist ideas, while the Trois Miniatures of Gustavo Campa (1889), perhaps the most charming of the bunch, look back to the brief period of French rule over Mexico in the 1860s. The Cuarteto en mi menor (Quartet in E minor) of Alfredo Carrasco bears the subtitle "Cum granus salis" (with a grain of salt), in Latin no less, and it has something of the flavor of Rossini's Sins of Old Age. The two moderate-tempo opening movements at the beginning of de Elías' Cuarteto de Cuerdas No. 2 (String Quartet No. 2), in lead-off position on the album, are a bit of a tough slog, and this is hardly earthshaking music. But it certainly illuminates a forgotten corner of the musical world.

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