The Strad Issue: January 2012
Description: Music for string quartet and guitar from Latin America
Musicians: Santiago Quartet, Ahmed Dickinson Cárdenas (guitar)
Composer: Brouwer, Del Águila, Alvarez
The Santiago Quartet was founded to perform Latin American music by living composers, and this recording focuses on works by the Cuban Leo Brouwer. His compatriot and fellow guitarist Ahmed Dickinson Cárdenas is its guest and the star turn here but, although music for this instrumental line-up is in relatively short supply, devoting half the album to Beatles arrangements feels somewhat disappointing.
The ensemble’s crisp and punchy playing in the Allegro of Brouwer’s Quintet makes a good start to the disc, though the movement’s news-themey feel is a little naff. The beautifully intimate legato of the second movement leads into the high point of the recording – a finale that flashes and crackles with string surges and earthy hits on the guitar’s bass end. The quartet also brings panache to Del Águila’s Presto II, full of nifty quick-fire rhythms and call-and-response effects although, as elsewhere when without the guitar, the recorded sound of the quartet lacks a little presence.
From here on, some momentum is lost: Brouwer’s Beatles sequence is nicely arranged, but not especially distinctive, despite some bold moves in interpreting the likes of Ticket to Ride. The closing Mexican piece, Metro chabacano, is propulsive but a bit monochrome. There’s much to like about the quartet’s playing, and some slightly bolder programming would really show this off.