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Latin American String Quartet Celebrates 30 Years

Cuarteto Latinoamericano

In many ways, KPAC and the Cuarteto Latinoamericano have lived parallel lives over the past 30 years. San Antonio's cultural profile would be quite different today if not for KPAC's dedication to providing great music around the clock for the greater San Antonio area. For these same three decades, the Latin American String Quartet has emerged as the essential champion of Latin American music for string quartet. Long may both these cultural institutions survive.

My professional path crossed the Cuarteto's in the early 1980s, just as the Quartet was forming. I was working in the Mexico City Philharmonic, with violist Javier Montiel and violinist Jorge Risi. As Saul Bitran tells the story, Montiel and Risi linked up with Saul's brothers, Alvaro and Aron, to play chamber music. They enjoyed the experience and decided to go public, to test the waters. Little did they imagine that in 1982 their ensemble would still be going strong 30 years later.

I came to better know theCuarteto a few years later after Risi has returned home to Uruguay and Saul had taken his place in the Quartet. We all began to play with Eduardo Mata and his hand-assembled ensemble, Solistas de Mexico. These were special times, leading to tours of Mexico and Europe. The sky seemed the limit until Mata died in the crash of his self piloted plane in 1995.

The real story here is the history of the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, the boost they received from Mata, and the continued legacy of Eduardo Mata. Said Saul Bitran: "He was a big push for us, which subsists even today."

This interview is part of a recent conversation I had with Saul Bitran. This is given final punctuation by the ultimate Menuet-Trio from Bach's Brandenburg No. 1, played live in 1991 at a music festival in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico.

James first introduced himself to KPAC listeners at midnight on April 8, 1993, presenting Dvorak's 7th Symphony played by the Cleveland Orchestra. Soon after, he became the regular overnight announcer on KPAC.