Art Odyssey

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This article by Elaine Strauss was prepared for the August 8, 2001

edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Cuarteto America: Strings with a Latin Flavor

When a string quartet replaces a member, there is


dislocation. The trauma of switching personnel in so intimate a body

begs for an interval of recovery before the group can meet its tasks

fully. Just as a broken bone must be set and given time to heal, a

string quartet must have a period of consolidation if its membership


Not surprisingly, in the face of losing two of its members recently,

Elements Quartet, which was scheduled to play at the Soclair Music

Festival in Lebanon on Sunday, August 12, notified artistic director

Edward Brewer in mid-June that it would be unable to appear. A string

quartet protects a sparkling reputation better by calling off a


than by doggedly limping through an engagement. Diligently, Brewer

searched his mind, worked the web, and dug into his Rolodex to find

a replacement for the August date, when many ensembles are either

already committed or on vacation. Brewer was lucky.

The Cuarteto America, with its new violist, was available to perform.

The concert takes place in the barn at Soclair Brooks Farm in Lebanon

on Sunday, August 12, at 4 p.m., the third of a four-concert season.

Members of the ensemble are Marion Peraza, first violin; Carlos Rubio,

violin; Meghan Casper, viola; and Carlos Izcaray, cello. The two


are the only original members of the group, which was founded in 1994

in Caracas, Venezuela. Violist Casper, a Minnesota native is the first


With Casper settled in sufficiently after joining up in May, Cuarteto

America was ready to present a characteristic program, which leans

toward the Latin American. The Lebanon program consists of Argentinean

Astor Piazzolla’s "Four for Tango;" Beethoven’s String Quartet

Op. 59, No. 3; and Bartok’s String Quartet No. 2.

Interviewed by telephone from his home in Cincinnati, violinist Rubio,

who conceived the idea of creating the quartet, stressed the


of the ensemble’s roots in Latin American music. "Playing Latin


music compares with playing jazz," he says. "It’s natural

if you grow up with it. There’s a lot of rhythm and folk music in

Latin American music. We study it in conservatory. The history is

strong for us. We’re very close to it. Salsa and merengue are easy

for us to dance; we feel it."

Rubio talks of a gap between the music of North America and South

America. "Understanding Latin American music is easier for us

than for others. I can play jazz, but I don’t have the feeling for

it. It’s not in my blood. When non-Latin American Quartets play Latin


music, all the notes are there, but the flavor isn’t there."

Still, the quartet goes beyond exploring Latin American music.


a young quartet," says Rubio. "Therefore, we’re also pursuing

standard repertoire."

Rubio, 27, was born in Maracaibo, the oil capital of Venezuela, and

grew up in Caracas, where his parents currently live. His father has

retired as a supervisor for the Fiat and Chrysler companies. His


has retired from her work in public relations.

Like the other original members of Cuarteto America,

Rubio attended the Conservatorio Simon Bolivar in Caracas and became

a member of the professional Orquestra Simon Bolivar, where the


was born. In 1997, three years after its founding, the quartet was

invited to pursue an intensive training program with the Penderecki

String Quartet at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario,

Canada. The same year they became the Graduate String Quartet in


at Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio, where they worked under the

tutelage of the Oxford String Quartet, and emerged with masters’


At the third annual competition in the performance of Spanish and

Latin American music at Indiana University in 2000, they triumphed

over a field of eight finalists to win. They are currently in


at the Cincinnati String Academy, where they will present their own

three-concert music series in the 2001-2002 season.

Rubio’s performing career goes back 12 years to the time when he was

15 and a high school student simultaneously studying at the


At that time he managed to work his way into a spot in Caracas’ Simon

Bolivar Orchestra. He still relishes the experience, which took him

on tour to Spain, the United States, Mexico, and Japan. "It was

difficult to combine playing in the orchestra with going to


he says. "I don’t want to lie. There was no A-plus all the


While he chalked up no impressive academic achievements, he laid the

basis for more important accomplishments.

Now a United States resident, Rubio has managed to take the lead in

a string quartet devoted to keeping Latin American music afloat, and

in keeping the ensemble basically Latin American, even when a


violist comes from the state of Minnesota.

— Elaine Strauss

Cuarteto America, Concerts in the Barn , Soclair Brooks

Farm, Lebanon, 908-236-6476. Cincinnati-based string quartet with

Latin American flavor. Part of a four-part, subscription series, the

concert may still have seats — call for ticket information.


August 12, at 4 p.m

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Art Odyssey

Princeton University Museum Registrar Maureen McCormick tells how an

exhibit is moved . . . a cover story for this issue.

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