Amidst television trucks and pedestrian guardrails for Iowa’s turn in the political spotlight, concert-goers made their way on Saturday night into Sheslow Auditorium to take in not more blustery campaign speeches but a bright performance by Dalí Quartet presented by the Des Moines-based Civic Music Association. The quartet boasts musicians with training in both Venezuela’s El Sistema and in the American conservatory tradition. Their program on Saturday reflected those interests by combining Schubert Quartettsatz in C minor, D. 703 and Brahms String Quartet in A minor, Op. 51 No. 2 on the first half with more than a handful of Latin-American and Spanish composers on the second.
Des Moines may not have felt the wrath of Winter Storm Jonas that rocked the East Coast this past weekend, but local music lovers are still feeling the dip of temperatures into the teens and expecting snow flurries at any possible moment. It is no wonder that desperation for any sensory reminder of sunshine is so strong. Dalí Quartet delivered in dynamic fashion for these beleaguered listeners in the second half of their performance. Carlos Rubio (violin), Alex Fortes (violin), Adriana Linares (viola), and Jesús a. Morales (cello) all became more invigorated and captivating while playing this repertoire. The quartet opened the second half of the performance with Angelica by Venezuelan composer Efraín Amaya. Inspired by a Bach fugue, Amaya’s sunny and syncopated work highlighted each player’s gift for warm, rich sounds.
Both Astor Piazzolla Four, for Tango and Carlos Gardel El día que me quieras “The day you love me” arranged by N. Aponte share stylistic features of the tango while representing completely different poles of the spectrum. It was certainly heartening to hear the audience applaud the extended techniques and harmonies in the Piazzolla just as enthusiastically as the lyrical and luscious playing in the Gardel arrangement. If one was looking for a masterclass in accomplishing the perfect level of sentimentality in playing, one need not look farther than the quartet’s delicate ritardando and Rubio’s sudden pianissimo into the final return of the El día que me quieras theme. Although, it was the final minutes of Joaquín Turina La Oración del Torero, Op. 34 “The Bullfighter’s Prayer” that completed the performance to this taste. While combining nationalistic and meditative sounds, the serenity of the conclusion illuminated not only each player’s skill but the quartet’s exquisite ensemble sound.
While we continue to expect blankets of snow and the ever-present onslaught of political ads here, it can only be hoped that we’ll experience the same regularity of incredible musicianship that the Dalí Quartet brought with them last weekend.
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