Engaging Dali Quartet showcases vibrant Latin American music...

Review: Engaging Dali Quartet showcases vibrant Latin American music in cabaret-style concert at Zoellner

Candlelit tables clustered together, dim lighting, and a musical mix of tangos, rumbas, and boleros. That was the provocative setting Saturday evening at the Zoellner Arts Center, when the Dalí String Quartet presented a cabaret-style on stage concert of dances and love songs from Argentina, Cuba, Venezuela, and Brazil. More than 120 attended the mostly Latin-American program, which was an intimate affair with the option of a pre-concert dinner.

The evening’s appetizer, musically speaking, was the final movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet in G Major, Op. 18 No. 2. It was an ideal showpiece, establishing the quartet’s fluid, well-balanced sound and admirable ensemble playing – qualities that were in ample evidence throughout the program.

A solid Latin-American program followed the Beethoven, led by Piazzolla’s wild and wooly “Four for Tango.” With its slinky glissandos, whip and siren effects, and bowing behind the bridge, the Dalí marvelously emulated the sound of a classic tango band.

Carlos Almaran’s sorrowful ballad, “La historia de un amor,” was more in the style of what comes to mind for a Latin-inspired café-style program. Cool, swaying, and romantic, the slow bolero featured some lovely trills by violist Adriana Linares and enchanting counterpoint from violinists Carlos Rubio and Domenic Salerni, a Bethlehem native.

For me, the highlight of the program was Efrain Amaya’s “Angelica,” a gorgeous hybrid blending a classical rondo form with elements of salsa. Linares was even coaxed by the group members to stand up and demonstrate the traditional salsa kick, to which she complied cheerfully, if a bit reluctantly. This work clearly demonstrates what the Dalí is all about, with its fugal texture, elements of 18th century dignity and grace, and subtle Latin syncopation.

Selections from Villa-Lobos’ String Quartet No. 1 proved to be another melding of Latin and European musical culture. Cellist Jesus Morales provided some wonderful pizzicato and gentle percussive effects throughout much of the four sections, all performed with solid ensemble work and a language ranging from lush impressionism to lively folk dance. The use of a sprightly country dance in the last section was reminiscent of Dvorak’s use of folk material.

Contrasts abounded in “Fuga Romantica” and “Fuga Criolla” by the Venezuelan composer Juan Bautista Plaza, performed back-to-back. The first piece was very much in the fugal tradition of J.S. Bach, with a sorrowful feel not unlike Samuel barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” The second was its polar opposite, inspired by that most traditional Venezuelan folk dance, the lively joropo. Yet even here the Dalí managed to bring out the work’s unmistakable classical roots, again conjuring Dvorak’s intertwining folk elements into a classical fabric.

Argentinian composer Carlos Gardel’s “El dia que me quiera” was a softly swaying tango, poles apart from Piazzolla’s bumps and grinds, and Abelardito Valdes’ slow, formal partner dance, “Danzón Almendra” provided a perfect complement. Here was another classic nightclub-style piece, with an intimate, syncopated beat written in the 2/4 time of a Cuban danzón.

Joaquín Turina’s “Prayer of the Bullfighter” had a lush, impressionistic feeling with subtle Spanish themes colored by shades of Debussy-like chromatism, and Paquito d’Rivera’s arrangement of a popular Mexican dance provided a lively encore.

It’s a shame that with the exception of Villa-Lobos, many of these engaging Latin composers remain relatively unknown. With the Dalí String Quartet as their champions, hopefully that will soon change.

Steve Siegel, The Morning Call
Related Link
Back to List
Back to Top