The Strad Issue: January 2012
Description: Music for string quartet with a Latin flavour
Musicians: Alcan Quartet
Composer: BrandÁo, Annunziata, Evangelista, Del Aguila, Nicolau, D’Rivera & Ichmouratov

When playing contemporary music of strong character that lies outside the popular mainstream, it is easy to fall into the trap of over-earnestness or adopting a self-conscious, synthetic ‘cool’, designed to cut loose from generic pigeonholing. How refreshing, then, to hear the Alcan Quartet play the wide-ranging works in this rewarding programme with the same level of devoted musical sophistication, spontaneity and textural luminescence it has previously captured on disc in music by (among others) Haydn, Schubert and Borodin.   

Debussy meets Dag Wirén in the catchy ostinatos and syncopations of José Vieira Brandão’s Miniatura, while the haunting, harmonic-minor augmented seconds of Alessandro Annunziata’s Meltemi create the impression of being experienced through a heat haze. José Evangelista’s Spanish Garland ear-tweakingly reflects on twelve Spanish folk melodies in a way that at times hauntingly recalls the mesmerising rondeaux of Dufay and Binchois.

The playfully groovy rhythmic asides of Miguel del Aguila’s Presto II (originally the finale of his second string quartet) are (initially, at least) evocative of 1950s popular Latin–Americana (one half expects Vic Damone or Michael Bublé to join in the fun at any moment). Altogether a divertingly gregarious collection, played with consummate skill and affection, enhanced by boldly engaging sound.