IN: Reviews

Resourceful Alchemy from Catalysts


Sunday’s guest, the Catalyst Quartet, has performed at the Maverick’s rustic “music chapel” a number of times. On this occasion cellist Gabriel Cabezas joined them for a concert that began with Bach’s Suite for Solo Cello No. 3 in C Major (BWV 1009), a foolproof curtain raiser in a tangibly heartfelt performance of a gloriously familiar piece. Cabezas made it his own with poignant rubatos and excitedly articulate statements of the melodies. The hair-raisingly energetic Gigue set the stage handily for a string quintet commissioned by the Catalyst Quartet and composed in 2022 by the young Cuban Jorge Amado.

With Cabezas to the quorum, the resulting richness of tone and texture lent an almost orchestral presence and served the purposes of Amado’s quintet beautifully. The composer gave a brief introduction to his Relatos Magicos (Magical Tales), speaking of the powerful influences on his work of the Afro-Cuban chants and rhythms of his homeland. The work’s four free-standing movements bear fantastical titles like “The Ancient Incantation of the Sage” and “In the Magical Lands of Chiaroscuro,” invoking covens and chorales and the allegorical landscapes of the Santería religion. Tales, in what seems to have become a standard 21st-century trope, conveyed an exciting object lesson in how to achieve clearly defined structures through texture and meter, obviating the need for the framework and strictures of tonality. The heartbreaking slow movement contained an extended solo of surpassing warmth and loveliness from violist Paul Laraia. The ensemble dove deep into the demands of a wild fugato, and the several lengthy passages of dense, meticulously played pizzicato textures in the finale wrapped up the set nicely.

 Clocking in at just about an hour, Schubert’s mighty String Quintet in C Major, D. 956 (Op. 163) is one of the splendors of the repertoire; the earnest passion of the Catalysts, with their friend Cabezas, shone throughout its lengthy passages of sadness, majesty, and rustic delight. The work presents numerous opportunities for solo playing and for duets and other smaller ensembles within the larger context of the full five instruments.

The players (Karla Donehew-Perez, Abi Fayette, violins; Paul Laraia, viola; Karlos Rodriguez, cello) hold degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Curtis Institute of Music, the Juilliard School, and the New England Conservatory, has toured widely throughout the United States and abroad. The ensemble has served as principal faculty at the Cleveland Institute and the Curtis Institute and has assumed residencies at a number of major artistic institutions, including New York’s Metropolitan Museum. The Quartet combines a serious commitment to diversity and education with a passion for contemporary works.

Gabriel Cabezas is a prolific and sought-after soloist and collaborator, as comfortable interpreting new works as he is with the pillar scores of the cello repertoire. He has premiered dozens of new works and performed with America’s finest symphony orchestras, including those of Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland and New York.

Mary Fairchild lives in Rosendale, New York, after a long career as a host at WQXR, WNYC, WMHT (Schenectady), and WPLN (Nashville). She has for some 20 years been writing program notes for Vladimir Feltsman’s PianoSummer at New Paltz. Before being called by Kalliope, the Muse of Eloquence and of Writing About Music, she worked as a financial editor and manager of investor relations in Wall Street.


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