On record – Orlando Jacinto Garcia : String Quartets – Amernet String Quartet (Métier)

Orlando Jacinto Garcia
String Quartet no.1 (1986)
String Quartet no.2 (1998)
String Quartet no.3 (2018)

Amernet String Quartet [Misha Vitenson, Avi Nagin (violins), Michael Klotz (viola), Jason Calloway (cello)]

Métier MSV28613 [65’39”]

Producer Orlando Jacinto Garcia
Engineer Jacob Sudol

Recorded 27 August 2019 at Concert Hall of Wertheim Performing Arts Centre, Miami

Written by Richard Whitehouse

What’s the story?

The highly enterprising Amernet Quartet latest releases comprises the three string quartets by Orlando Jacinto Garcia (b1954), the Cuban-born American composer for whom these works underscore the gradual and incremental changes in idiom across his now substantial output.

What’s the music like?

Although its subtitle Rendering Counterpoint may suggest music which is beholden to such luminaries of post-war complexity as Milton Babbitt, the First Quartet is aesthetically much closer to Morton Feldman (with whom Garcia had undergone an intensive while productive period of study) in its content. Put another way, the very concrete shapes and textures do not so much develop as metamorphose across the course of its almost 26 minutes – with lengthy silences not so much interrupting as motivating the discourse through to an ending the more conclusive for its sparseness. Those daunted by the imposing duration of Feldman’s quartets should find this piece an excellent primer, as well as an engrossing listen on its own terms.

Its subtitle Cuatro might seem straightforward in context, but the Second Quartet predicates the number ‘four’ at conceptual, structural, or expressive levels. Hence four instruments and (continuous) sections, alongside evocations of an eponymous Cuban guitar with four sets of strings, then four composers whose work is alluded to literally yet obliquely. Beyond these, there is the interplay of registers, timbres, textures, and dynamics such as make the resultant piece a varied and involving listen despite (or even because of) its more consonant harmonic sense. Nor is there anything unmotivated about music whose ultimate destination is one of a repose is deeper for its unwavering concentration on the most elemental motifs and gestures.

And so to I Never Saw Another Butterfly, the subtitle of a Third Quartet with inspiration in the art and poetry of children from Terezin (aka Theresienstadt), the transit camp just outside Prague where many artists or composers and their families were interned prior to being sent to concentration camps. Numerous pieces have been written over recent decades in tribute or commemoration, with Garcia’s surely among the most affecting in its absence of extraneous emotion or superfluous rhetoric – opting instead for a contemplative inwardness where solo and ensemble passages are freely alternated, even superimposed over the course of a journey whose 24 minutes proceed eventfully towards a conclusion eloquent in its deft quizzicality.

Does it all work?

Yes, though anyone expecting to encounter radical or seismic changes along the way might be disappointed. More approachable and immediate as Garcia’s idiom has become, there is never any sense of his music courting easy appeal or popular acclaim. Rather, these quartets maintain a steady and methodical course akin to a thawing out or loosening up of emotions audible from the outset. It helps that the Amernet Quartet (who previously recorded quartets by Steven R. Gerber for the Albany label) is so attuned to this music’s understated intensity.

Is it recommended?

Indeed. The sound is well-nigh ideal in its balance and focus, while cellist Jason Calloway’s booklet notes are the more pertinent given his involvement in the actual recording. Garcia’s discography is not yet sizable, but this release should help pave the way to greater coverage.

Listen

Buy

You can discover more about this release at the Divine Arts website, where you can also purchase the recording. For the composer’s website, click here, and for more information on the Amernet String Quartet click target=”_blank”>here