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Canada’s Afiara String Quartet makes its San Miguel debut

By Veronica Byrne

The San Francisco Classical Voice credits the Afiara String Quartet with “performances of startling intensity” with a “powerful, keen-edged collective sound.” With this glowing review in mind, Pro Musica proudly presents the all-Canadian Afiara in its San Miguel debut. Established in 2006, the Afiara String Quartet takes its name from the Spanish fiar (to trust), which the group believes to be the basic element vital to the depth and joy of its music.

Pro Musica Concert Series, Afiara String Quartet, Fri & Sat, Jan 6 & 7, 5pm, St. Paul’s Church, Cardo 6, 100/150/250 pesos

The Afiara is the former graduate quartet of the Juilliard School. Following in the footsteps of their renowned predecessors, the Juilliard Quartet, they are now firmly established on the international concert circuit. There is also a Pro Musica connection here. Our Board member Ken Bichel, famed San Miguel musician, is also an alumni of the Juillard School, where he studied classical piano. It is very appropriate that Ken will introduce both January concerts in the absence of Pro Musica President Michael Pearl.

The Afiara receives reviews wherever they perform, including prestigious venues in the United States, including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. The quartet has taken top awards at the Munich International Music Competition and the Banff International String Quartet Competition, where they also won the Szekely Prize for the best performance of Beethoven. The Afiara also serves as the Visiting-Quartet-in-Residence of the Glenn Gould School at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music.

As passionate champions of new music, the Afiara has joined in a project with the Common Sense Composers’ Collective and Cecilia String Quartet, performing and recording eight new quartet works at The Banff Centre. In 2010, they came together with singer/songwriter Kyrie Kristmanson and composer Patrick Carrabre for the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival’s Late Night series for a world premiere, subsequently broadcast by CBC Radio. To date, the Afiara has performed world premieres of Brett Abigana’s Une Grande Messe and Jason Bush’s Visions in San Francisco, which was written especially for them. The ensemble also gave the world premiere of Huck Hodge’s String Quartet No. 2 in New York City, with the support of the American Composers Forum and the Jerome Foundation.

For our concerts the Afiara will perform string quartets by Haydn, Dvořák, Beethoven, Carl Nielsen, Brett Abigaña and Sibelius. On Friday, the Afiara performs Hydn’s String Quartet in F Major, Op. 74, No. 2. Brett Abigaña, a young American composer, has written well-received music which has been performed throughout the United States and Europe, including performances on Dutch Public Radio. The Afiara plays his String Quartet No. 2, composed in 2010. Following the intermission, we will hear Dvořák’s String Quartet in G Major, Op. 106. From 1892 to 1895, Dvořák was the director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. Dvořák’s main goal in America was to discover and engage in American Music, much as he had utilized Czech folk idioms in his music. In 1893, while in New York, Dvořák wrote probably his most famous piece, the Symphony No.9, From the New World.

On Saturday, we will hear Beethoven’s String Quartet in F minor, Op. 95, Serioso, followed by Carl Nielsen’s String Quartet No. 4 and, after the intermission, Jean Sibelius’ String Quartet Op. 56, Voces Intimae. Beethoven’s symphonies, concertos, piano sonatas and string quartets are unsurpassed, and his String Quartet in F minor, Op. 95, Serioso is one of his most impressive accomplishments. Carl Nielsen, widely recognized as Denmark’s greatest composer, his String Quartet No. 4 in F major, Opus 44 is a perfect example of studied casualness by a composer who was expert at creating music of a specific character. Finnish composer Jean Sibelius has been described as prodigious. String Quartet Op. 56, Voces Intimae, dates from his artistic maturity, this often spare and brooding piece suggests both the conversational quality of chamber music and Sibelius’ introspection.

Tickets are available at La Tienda in the Biblioteca, Insurgentes 20; La Conexión, Aldama 3; BajioGo, Jesús 11; St. Paul’s office, weekdays 11am-4pm; and at the door from 4:30pm. For details of Pro Musica’s concert season and patron membership, see or contact Pro Musica at

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