TURNTABLE: Latinoamericano wonder

Israel Guzman, affectionally dubbed "Guz"


Israel Guzman
September 11, 2004

They are the architects of tomorrow. Usually referred to as composers, poets and artists know better. They are the song makers of the wind. Violins, a cello, and a viola mimic the wind — or as some would ask maybe the wind mimics the violins.

Jiyoung Lee’s 2004 composition “Intuition, for string quartet” was featured at Thursday’s program at Alumni Concert Hall as a song performed by Cuarteto Latinoamericano one hour performance. Lee’s composition was winner of the Carnegie Mellon School of Music String Quartet Composition Competition.

Ross Popoff’s 2003 composition “MOVING FORWARD/looking back” was performed after Lee’s composition. Popoff’s song was runner-up in the same competition.

Each composer bowed with the quartet after their songs filled the hall. The audience that attended eagerly supported the performances of the acclaimed members of composition.

Songwriters are essential for a genre that, like jazz, has a higher importance of standards being played live then impromptu improvisations. These are the performances where “classics” are judged heavily for their focus on the interpretations of the original songs and how they are reworked.

Imagine your favorite song switched from a pop song to a Bulgarian third wake ska song. Yeah, just like that.

Often a change of key — or going from G minor to G sharp – will single-handedly coax classical music aficionados to cram the seats at an auditorium. Without the composers classical music is just a bunch of musicians playing “hot, cross, buns.”

Classical music may not outsell modern hip-hop, Christina Aguilera, or next year’s American Idol runner-up, but in ways classical music is destined to outlive many of its influenced offshoots.

The reason is simple. The proof lies in groups such as the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, Spanish for Quartet Latinamerican. They single-handedly are direct proof that classical music is still stretching its original European boundaries.

The quartet consists of Saul Bitran on violin, Aron Bitran on violin, Javier Montiel on viola, and Alvaro Bitran on cello.

The quartet started the night with Brazilian’s Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887–1959). Composition “String Quartet No. 1” first performed in Nova Friburgo, Brazil, on February 3, 1915. They ended with Bohemian Anton Dvor?k’s 1893 composition “Quartet Op. 96 American” first performed in Boston on January 10, 1894.

The sweet serenading performances that would follow would make any movie director sweat like a robber to buy a few recordings from the night. Soundtracks after all don’t pop out of thin-air.

The tension, the energy, symmetric tones, mathematical rhythms, rolling cycles, twelve whole notes stretched in physical strength, pulverized the evening. Some in attendance fidgeted in their seats, others let themselves go into sonic spheres.

When the night ended those in attendance applauded, and the quartet in matching suits and shiny shirts bowed – and the architects smiled triumphantly as they continued the work started eons ago.