Del Sol String Quartet – Zia

The Zia Indians used a symbol for the sun that had rays going out to the four compass points. Zia gathers together music from the four corners of the globe for a truly international program of contemporary music.

The album opens with Leyendas (Legends): An Andean Walkabout by Gabriela Lena Frank. The work is series of short sketches based on Chilean native culture. Some references are overt, such as using fourth and fifths in imitation of Andean pipes; while others are quite subtle, such as incorporating the Dies Irae into a movement depicting native professional mourners. Frank’s amalgamation of traditional elements with contemporary classical tradition creates a work that sounds simultaneously exotic and familiar.

Harrison’s best known for his explorations of non-Western music. His String Quartet Set, though, is based on European classical music, albeit not the kind one might expect. Harrison uses music of a medieval minnesinger, an obscure French baroque composer, and music of the Turkish court. Completed in 1979, the work sounds as fresh and modern as if it had been penned yesterday.

Spanish composer Jose Evangelista weaves 12 Spanish folk songs together in his piece Spanish Garland. This deceptively simple and attractive work presents the source material in a single movement that seamlessly glides from song to song.

Reza Vali’s Nayshaborak is part of his “Calligraphy” series. It recasts the musical traditions of Vali’s native Iran into Western classical forms. And quite successfully, too. The violins (to my ears) effectively emulate the Persian setar in an entrancing fashion.

Australia-based composer Elena Kats-Chermin’s Fast Blue Village 2 is a sophisticated, cosmopolitan sketch of a major city. As the title suggests, there are bluesy bending of notes, coupled with the relentless drive of minimalism. Not that this is minimalist piece. The texture is quite thick and the melody churns and changes continually, capturing the high-energy of a bustling metropolis.

Although the styles on this release are wide-ranging, the Del Sol handles it all with ease. And no wonder. The quartet actively promotes contemporary music that stretches beyond the borders of this country. And they frequently work directly with the composers (as they did with some on this album). With that level of commitment, the results can’t be anything other than a great performance. And in this case, a great program, too.

Del Sol String Quartet
Sonos Luminus

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