Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fanfare: 'This is a wonderful recording by an ensemble of superb players, one that I can strongly recommend.'

[Leo Brouwer: The String Quartets and String Trio; The Havana String Quartet; ZOHO Classix ZM 201108 (2011)]

Leo Brouwer (b. 1939) is an Afro-Cuban composer, guitarist and conductor who is featured at On August 11, 2011 AfriClassical posted: “Havana String Quartet CD of Leo Brouwer's 'String Quartets & String Trio' is Latin Grammy Winner.” Today we post brief excerpts from a fascinating article which appears today in Fanfare Magazine:

“A Conversation with Havana String Quartet Cellist Deborah Yamak on Leo Brouwer and ZOHO Music
Departments - Feature Articles
Written by Jerry Dubins
Thursday, 25 August 2011
ZOHO Music, a New York area indie record label heretofore devoted to Latin American ethnic popular music, jazz, blues, and classic rock, has established a new imprint called ZOHO Classix. To launch it, company owner and executive producer Joachim “Jochen” Becker has released a CD of string quartets by Cuban composer Leo Brouwer.

“This first classical release on ZOHO came about, one might say, as the result of a kind of ménage à trois between Brouwer, the Havana String Quartet, and Zoho. The ZOHO label had initially come across the guitar music of Leo Brouwer through ZOHO artist and internationally renowned Brazilian acoustic guitarist Carlos Barbosa-Lima. Carlos had been a friend and musical collaborator of Leo Brouwer since 1975, meeting frequently at international guitar festivals. Barbosa-Lima championed several of Brouwer’s compositions and arrangements in concerts and recordings since that time, and most recently on three of his ZOHO releases: Frenesi (ZM 200408) and Siboney (ZM 200414) from 2004, and Merengue (ZM 200911) from 2009.

“Fast forward to November 2010 in Las Vegas, where the Havana String Quartet won the Latin Grammy for Best Classical Performance with its recording of the Leo Brouwer string quartets. ZOHO label head Becker was in attendance, and he learned that the recording had not yet been released internationally. The label’s association with Brouwer through Barbosa-Lima made it eminently desirable to continue the association by releasing the quartet project on its newly formed ZOHO Classix imprint. Contracts to that end were signed in December 2010, thus completing the ménage à trois. So when the opportunity arose to interview Deborah Yamak, the Havana String Quartet’s cellist, the timing seemed right to chat with her about the ensemble’s relationship with Brouwer and how the ZOHO release of the composer’s string quartets came about.”

Q: So how exactly did the project to record Brouwer’s string quartets come about and eventually materialize?

A: The Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, the Spanish equivalent of ASCAP, in Madrid got in contact with Jorge Hernández and began conversations about the possibility of recording all of his quartets as homage to his 70th birthday and his legacy as the most relevant Cuban composer of classical music today. Brouwer has a very strong relationship with this organization as he is one of the composers on its roster whose works are most performed. Another member of the orchestra, Amado del Rosario, is also an excellent sound engineer and immediately signed on to the project. Curiously, not long before this, the orchestra in which we all play inaugurated a new theater in the province and I remarked on the wonderful acoustics that it offered. The management of the theater was thrilled at the idea of having us record on its stage. We split the production costs between SGAE and the HSQ and away we go … green light. Initially, the album was to include the first, second, and third quartets plus the String Trio. When Brouwer heard the work we had done so far he immediately sent the parts for the Fourth Quartet (dedicated to the Roldán Quartet in Cuba) and three or four months later we recorded it, this time in the Gran Teatro in Córdoba.”

“Brouwer, whose love child you might say the Havana String Quartet is, has said of the ensemble, 'For 30 years, the Havana String Quartet has been performing and celebrating the musical culture of the Americas and Spain with a remarkable repertoire. I am very proud to have initiated the creation of such a significant chamber group. The maturity of the HSQ as interpreters is evident in this recording of my complete quartets, and in their many diverse and important awards and reviews … I congratulate them! The professional quality and enthusiasm of this ensemble has only one source: an infinite love of music. Listen!'

“I second that. This is a wonderful recording by an ensemble of superb players, one that I can strongly recommend.” Jerry Dubins

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