Intriguingly complex and moving: the music of Orlando Jacinto García

The prolific Cuban American composer Orlando Jacinto García recorded three of his string quartets with the invaluable Amernet Quartet for METIER. The CD came to my attention as a result of his having recently received a well-deserved GRAMMY nomination.

After listening intently to the three quartets in the METIER CD I came away impressed by my compatriot’s intriguingly complex and moving compositions, to which I listened in this order: String Quartet No. 1, “rendering counterpoint”, String Quartet No. 2, “cuatro”, and String Quartet No. 3, “I never saw another butterfly.”

Orlando Jacinto García’s music defies categorization or, worse, labeling. Thus I have to resort to subjective language as I did above – “intriguingly complex and moving” – rather to musicological lingo. For the musically untrained listener this music will not begin to sound like anything you have ever heard before, that is unless you are an habitual attendee of “new music” concerts.

That said, this music dispenses with the triple tenet of Western music of the last seven centuries: there is no harmony to speak of, neither counterpoint nor melody – certainly not as one has come to understand the meaning of those three terms. Instead García spins continuous, seemingly uneventful music in which minute changes of texture and tone happen imperceptibly. In listening to these quartets the listener must commit to complete attention. If one does indeed commit, quietude settles in, and the rewards then to be derived are immense.

Whereas some of the titles that this imaginative composer assigns to his works might at first seem cryptic, that of his String Quartet No. 3, “I never saw another butterfly” elicits at once an intense emotional response from those who are familiar with Celeste Raspanti’s play of the same title, or the poem by Pavel Friedmann that inspired it. The eerie calm that pervades this one-movement, 24-minute sonic landscape is now and then bluntly interrupted by a dramatic thudding sound from the cello that, given the largely even sound of the composition sends shivers up one’s spine.

The Amernet Quartet plays this music with complete discipline and sensitivity. The engineering is exemplary. I hope that METIER will continue to record the fascinating music of this pioneering artist.

Rafael de Acha     ALL ABOUT THE ARTS