Willy Sucre and Friends – La Catrina String Quartet play music of Heitor Villa-Lobos, Ludwig van Beethoven, Julian Plaza and Paquito d’Rivera at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 17 at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, six miles east of Interstate-25 in Placitas.
The concert is part of the 32nd season of the Placitas Artists Series. For tickets in advance visit http://www.placitasarts.org, or go to The Merc Grocery Store, Homestead Village Shopping Center, Placitas, or Under Charlie’s Covers in Bernalillo or at the door.
The program repeats in concerts at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 19 at the Light Hall Theater, Western New Mexico University, Silver City and at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 23 at Macey Center, New Mexico Tech, Socorro.
The Socorro concert is free. The Silver City concert is $15 general admission.
By David Steinberg
La Catrina String Quartet opens three Willy Sucre and Friends concerts with the music of Heitor Villa-Lobos, considered Brazil’s most important composer of the 20th century.
The open work is Villa-Lobos’ String Quartet No. 17.
“He has intricate rhythms. …It’s really interesting the way he organized rhythms and harmonies. You can tell right away it’s Villa-Lobos,” said Jorge Martínez Ríos, La Catrina’s violist.
The work’s first movement has “triplets all over the place” and is kind of the engine of the whole piece, he said.
The second movement “sings beautifully. It feels like you’re improvising on the different instruments of the quartet. It’s like a serenade, like a choro,” Martínez Ríos said in a phone interview.
Choro in this musical context means lament or weeping.
String Quartet No. 17 premiered at the Library of Congress and it was the last string quartet Villa-Lobos wrote before he died in November 1959.
“We’ve listened to (and read) his other quartets and No. 17 was the one we liked the most,” Martínez Ríos said.
Two short pieces by other Latin American composers are also on the first half of the program.
One is “Payadora” by Julian Plaza, an Argentine composer of mainly popular music.
“It’s three minutes long but it has a lot of dance elements. It’s very festive, very witty,” Martínez Ríos said.
The other is Paquito D’Rivera’s “Wapango,” which the violist described as challenging because it is fast and very flashy in its jazz chords and terrific melodies. D’Rivera is a Cuban-born jazz saxophonist who has lived in the United States for many years.
The second half of the concerts has Sucre, a violist, joining La Catrina for Ludwig van Beethoven’s Viola Quintet in C major. It’s the only composition Beethoven wrote for this combination of instruments.
“You hear a young Beethoven. The melody is always elegant but you hear Beethoven’s character,” Martínez Ríos said.
“The second movement is really beautiful. It has very expressive lines though Beethoven is often criticized for writing melodies that don’t sing. In this they do. The harmonies are beautiful, too.”
However, he said, the first violin carries the weight of the quintet.
La Catrina has been the quartet in residence at New Mexico State University for nine years.
The other ensemble members are violinists Daniel Vega-Albela and Simón Gollo and cellist Jorge Espinoza.
La Catrina has regularly toured in the U.S. and Mexico. In 2014, the quartet’s first commercially released CD “América Latina: A Musical Canvas” was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award.
The three Willy Sucre and Friends concerts are Sunday, March 17 in Placitas, Tuesday, March 19 in Silver City, and Saturday, March 23 in Socorro.