Dali Quartet captivates a near-capacity crowd at WCR Center for the Arts

READING, PA   The Dali Quartet captivated a near-capacity audience in the newly renovated WCR Center for the Arts Friday night, making their first - and hopefully not last - appearance as part of the Friends of Chamber Music of Reading series.

The Philadelphia-based quartet, three of whom are Latin Americans, gave vivid, highly expressive performances of contemporary works by Spanish and Latin American composers, mingled with Beethoven and Schubert, a type of programming that sets them apart.

The co-founders of the quartet, violinist Carlos Rubio and violist Adriana Linares, both from Venezuela, are determined to introduce audiences to music that is vibrant, often tremendously innovative and rarely heard in U.S. concert halls. They emphasize the contemporary and minimize the traditional - the opposite of most chamber music programs.

Rubio and Linares, along with Puerto Rican cellist Jesus Morales and their new first violinist, Domenic Salerni, from the Lehigh Valley, opened with "Angelica," by Venezuelan composer Efrain Amaya, who wrote it in 2000. Piquant and energetic, with thumping rhythms interspersed with lyrical phrases, it gave a glimpse of what the evening would hold.

They proved to be players who combine beautifully crafted, songful phrases with tremendous skill with complex rhythms and extended techniques - and add zest and humor in many cases.

Spanish composer Joaquin Turina's 1925 "La Oracion del Torero" was compelling, with its impressionist influences coupled with prayerful melodies, themes of life and death, and touches of distant festive music. Salerni's honey-toned solo work over deep chords, and Morales' succulent cello lines were remarkable.

Astor Piazzolla's "Four, for Tango," written in the 1980s, received a vigorous, masterful performance. Like a tango done in the midst of heavy traffic (in a good way!), this music is dangerous, audacious, and totally Piazzolla. They nailed it in every possible aspect.

Heitor Villa-Lobos' String Quartet No. 1 (1915) alternates arias of heartrending beauty - particularly the aptly named "Melancolia"- with humorous character pieces. The arias featured solos from all four players, all gorgeous; they showed their light side in the jovial "Brincadeira" and the bouncy, fugal "Saltando."

Cuban jazz saxophonist/composer Paquito D'Rivera's "Wapango" took the Mexican dance form and turned it into a "danse macabre," with a dark melody, and some quirky touches. The quartet had fun with this one, which was last on the program.

Their performances of Beethoven's String Quartet in G Major, Op. 18, No. 2 and Franz Schubert's "Quartettsatz" in C minor, both demonstrated their complete mastery of these works and further explored the themes of dark and light, heartfelt melodies and dance-like rhythms that dominated the entire program.



Susan L. Pena, Reading Eagle
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