By Dylan Nelson
The São Paulo City String Quartet played an eclectic set of Brazilian, Argentinian, and American music to an enthusiastic crowd of around 70 at the Madonna della Strada chapel at Loyola University Chicago.
The four players, Betina Stegmann, Nelson Rios, Marcelo Jaffé, and Robert Suetholz, have studied all over the world and together are considered one of Latin America’s premiere chamber ensembles.
The performance, which included selections by the famous Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos as well as pieces by lesser-known artists like Antonio Carlos Gomes, was part of the fifth annual Latino Music Festival, a program of the International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago.
The festival’s mission, according to co-director Gustavo Leone, 53, a professor of music at Loyola University Chicago, is “to produce concerts and promote awareness of intellectually significant music from Latin America and Spain,” especially music that many Chicago concert-goers haven’t heard before.
“We don’t need more concerts of salsa music,” he said. “There’s plenty of that.”
Jaffé, 47, a professor of viola at the University of São Paulo and viola player in the quartet, echoed his sentiments when he explained how the music on Tuesday’s program was chosen.
“We picked a repertoire that could show the many different aspects of Brazilian music,” he said. “When we go abroad, we feel we have to play music from our country. If we don’t play it, who will?”
The audience responded warmly to the quartet’s performance, which was supplemented between songs with commentary, history, and joking from Jaffé, including a few cracks about the national rivalry between Argentina and Brazil.
Ultimately, though, the night was about music and not nationality. Prompted by a prolonged standing ovation, the players returned to their seats for an encore, in which they paid tribute to American composer Samuel Barber.
“I focus on the music when I’m playing,” Jaffé said. “I don’t think. I just let it flow.”
The Latino Music Festival runs until December 8th.
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