It’s not often that one encounters the music of a 19th Czech composer on the same CD as that of one of the foremost jazz trumpeters of today. But in the recently released Afinat Records CD AMERICAN QUARTETS (AR1701), the 19th century Romantic happens to be America-loving Antonín Dvořák and the music is that of his 1893 String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96, “American”, and the music of the 21st century musician is that of Wynton Marsalis’ 1995 all-American String Quartet No. 1, “At the Octoroon Balls”, and the players are the members of the Euclid Quartet.
From the very first track of this CD we are quite aurally assured of being in the good company of kindred spirits.
Dvořák found the inspiration to compose his “American” quartet in the bucolic surroundings of Spilville, Iowa, where a Czech immigrant community lived and thrived. There, as a guest of the family of his secretary, Josef Jan Kovařík, the Czech master found the quietude to finish his string quartet in less than two weeks. The composer was so at peace with the stillness of his surroundings that, when the insistent song of a scarlet tanager kept distracting him, he incorporated the pentatonic melody of his winged visitor into the molto vivace third movement of his work in progress.
One can speculate as to whether the many melodies in his quartet have Native American or African American origins, just as much as those in Dvořák’s New World Symphony may or may not have come from those folk sources; after all, both the American quartet and the New World Symphony were written during the three years that the composer spent in the United States.
Whatever the provenance of its melodic ideas, the F Major quartet is an enduringly mature composition that has become a staple of the string quartet repertoire. It is given in this CD an exuberantly played performance that on repeated playbacks continues to delight the listener. The Euclid Quartet has a limpid sound, a faultless technique and both musicianship and musicality – all qualities that honorably serve the music of the Czech master.
With an equal mix of precision and panache, the Euclid takes on the jazz-inflected, freely polytonal musical language of Wynton Marsalis’ At the Octoroon Balls. Marsalis’ quartet – his first – comes from a world of music in which African-American rhythms and melodic motifs comingle with Mississippi River Delta banjo tunes, New Orleans blues, Cuban Contra dances and Creole zydeko. Marsalis brilliantly spices up his multi-ethnic musical gumbo, creating a vibrantly rhythmic composition that provides the Euclid Quartet with an opportunity to successfully show their virtuosic versatility.
The Euclid Quartet will be donating their proceeds from worldwide sales of this album to the Raclin School of the Arts String Scholarship Fund at Indiana University South Bend, where the quartet has been in residency since 2007. This CD is now available exclusively through the Afinat Store (www.afinat.com) and will become available from most major music retailers in physical and digital formats on October 6.
Rafael de Acha http://www.Rafael’sMusicNotes.com All About the Arts