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String Quartet swings with Latin beat

The Spokane String Quartet swung to the end of its season Sunday with a Latin beat. The quartet’s spirited finale at The Met was further brightened by the return of Spokane-born flutist Anna Povich de Mayor.

Povich de Mayor has the full list of credentials for a classical musician – degrees from major universities and studies with renowned teachers.

But she brought a lot more to Sunday’s performance than the expected brilliant technique and rich variety of tone colors.

First she made an adventurous foray into unusual music by South American composers. Even better, Povich de Mayor brought a stylish verve conditioned by working in New York with ensembles that play Latin jazz and traditional popular music.

That spirit rubbed off on members of the Spokane String Quartet, too. In the first movement of Alberto Ginastera’s String Quartet No. 2 – the only work on the program that didn’t include flute – the Argentine composer’s rhythmic drive and sensual “night music” effects complemented his biting Bartokian harmonies.

The largest work on the program was Walter Burle Marx’s Quintet for Flute and Strings subtitled “Brazil Picturesque.”

Each of the quintet’s six movements depicts a scene from the Brazil the composer left behind when he moved to the United States in 1952. There was nostalgia to be heard in the sinuous melodies and gentle harmonies of the opening “Fiesta Matuta” and in the mournful viola and cello counterpoint of “Bahia.”

But there was angry protest in the military-industrial rhythms of the “In Memorium Dictum 1964-1985” – a lament for the environmental destruction in Brazil during that period.

Burle Marx was a well-trained composer with a gifted ear for striking effects. The Quintet – though it had strong advocates in Povich de Mayor and the Spokane String Quartet – showed a composer who never seemed to know when to stop.

After intermission, Povich de Mayor and cellist Helen Byrne captured the humor and lush sensuality of Heitor Villa Lobos’ “Assobio d Jato.”

The Colombian composer Pablo Mayor, the flutist’s husband, playing the guacharaca (a notched wooden cylinder scraped and tapped with a metal fork), joined the group for his own animated “Santa Terecita.”

The piece was such fun, who would have guessed that it was composed using elements of the 12-tone technique. It taught those who cringe at modern compositional methods a needed lesson in humility.

The remainder of the program was much lighter in mood, whether that mood darkened as in Astor Piazzola’s slow and well-named tango “Oblivion” or brightened into the bustling energy of the Brazilian choros “Um a Zero” and “Segura Ele.”

Povich made the music sing and dance and the members of the sometimes straight-laced Spokane String Quartet and pandeiro player Paul Raymond became, for the afternoon at least, a swinging Sao Paulo street band.


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