Delgani String Quartet preview: Musical & cultural mix

Eugene quartet and guest guitarist strum 20th and 21st century Latin American compositions and an Old World classic

By GARY FERRINGTON

Infusing music from Iberian Europe with African and Native Indian melodies and rhythms gave Latin America’s cultural melting pot an extraordinary variety of musical forms and styles. The classical guitar made an affordable harmonic and melodic mix master for those diverse ingredients, from the early Old World music of Luigi Boccherini to the new world Latin American music of 20th and 21st century composers Máximo Diego Pujol and Alberto Ginastera.

Delgani String Quartet.

Delgani String Quartet.

The combination of guitar and string quartet embodies this meeting of American and European influences. On March 29, Ashland-based guitarist James Bishop ­Edwards joins Eugene’s Delgani String Quartet in a concert of contemporary Latin American music that reflects those cultural interactions and the evolution of its music for guitar and strings. Its theme, “Twenty Two Strings,” signifies the collective resonant chords of a string quartet with guitar.

The opening work, Luigi Boccherini’s Guitar Quintet No. 2 in E Major, isn’t Latin American, but does embody the mingling of musical cultures. Boccherini (1743-1805) was an Italian composer and cellist who lived and worked in Spain where he first began to write string quintets and drew inspiration from the rich guitar traditions of Italy and his adopted country. Although the Guitar Quintet No. 2 is a straightforward arrangement of his Piano Quintet No. 4, Op. 57, it nevertheless has the distinct style, or character, of the guitar.

Máximo Diego Pujol. Photo: Hamburger-Gitarrentage Press.

Máximo Diego Pujol. Photo: Hamburger-Gitarrentage Press.

That tradition of string quartet with guitar continues today in the work of the contemporary Argentinian composer and guitarist Máximo Diego Pujol (b.1957), considered one of the most important of Latin American guitar composers of the 20th century with his works often performed worldwide. His Suite Buenos Aires is strongly influenced by the great Argentine nuevo tango composer Astor Piazzolla, and uses the tango as a basic style in wonderfully colourful, melodically rich works that make full use of the guitar’s expressive powers. Pujol’s guitar compositions have won many international awards including the 1989 Argentine Composers’ Union prize as Best Composer of Classical Music.

The program concludes with a rarely performed work celebrating the centenary of one of the foremost representatives of musical nationalism, Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983). The Argentine master’s String Quartet No. 1 (1948) incorporates rhythmic and thematic aspects of his country’s Gauchesco, or gaucho folk-music tradition, employing harmonies based upon the open strings of the guitar in addition to guitar­ like effects such as extensive pizzicato passages and strumming on the violins.

The historical sweep of the concert suits Edwards, who specializes in historical instruments including guitars and lutes. Over a 35 year career as a performer, teacher, composer and recording artist, the former head of guitar studies at Ashland’s Southern Oregon University has made more than 20 recordings featuring his arrangements of American and European classics and performed with many orchestras and ensembles including Jefferson Baroque Orchestra.

The collaboration with Edwards is the latest in a series of partnerships Delgani (violinist Jannie Wei and Wyatt True, violist Kimberlee Uwate, and cellist Kelly Quesada) has forged in its inaugural season. Read my ArtsWatch profile of the quartet.

James Bishop Edwards

Currently in residence at the Springfield Academy of Arts and Academics where they work with student composers on new music for string quartet, Delgani will also provide two related educational programs focusing on the incorporation of Argentinian folk traditions in classical music: a March 28 workshop and public performance with Douglas County Youth Orchestra at Roseburg’s First Presbyterian Church, and a March 30 workshop with students at Pinehurst Elementary​, a small rural school in the mountains outside of Ashland with only a few dozen students. followed by a performance at Ashland’s Greensprings Inn.

The Delgani String Quartet performs March 29 at the United Lutheran Church 2230 Washington St, Eugene. Tickets can be purchased online at www.delgani.org or by calling (541) 579­-5882. Twenty­ Two Strings is made possible in part by a grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust​. 

Gary Ferrington is a Senior Instructor Emeritus, Instructional Systems Technology, College of Education, University of Oregon. He is an advocate for new music and serves as project coordinator for Oregon ComposersWatch.

Want to read more about Oregon music? Support Oregon ArtsWatch! 
Want to learn more about contemporary Oregon classical music? Check out Oregon ComposersWatch.

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