Del Sol String Quartet


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The Zia are a small Native American group in New Mexico who use a four-pointed symbol that refers to the four directions, as well as the four seasons and certain other concepts (you may have seen it on New Mexico's state flag). Here it indicates the international nature of the program, although the bulk of the music comes from the Western Hemisphere, the specialty of the Del Sol String Quartet. Bartók's influence looms large in the music of all these composers. In the opening Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout of Gabriela Lena Frank, a composer whose ancestry includes Chinese, Peruvian, and Lithuanian Jewish ancestry, there's also something of the tense South American modernist idiom of Alberto Ginastera. Frank moves back in the direction of Peruvian roots, however, in her use of the string quartet to approximate traditional instruments, which can be quite startling. The annotators of the album are correct in citing Lou Harrison as another inspiration for the other composers on this album and for their uses of ethnic material, but the String Quartet Set of 1979, where the primary models come from Renaissance dance music, does not quite fit with the rest of the program. The final three works, by Jose Evangelista, Reza Vali, and Elena Kats-Chernin, draw on Spanish, Persian, and Uzbek traditions, and all contribute to the creative stretching out of the string quartet that is brilliantly begun with the Frank work. A worthwhile exploration of the juncture where the intellectual medium of the string quartet meets the current enthusiasm for world traditions.

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