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Afiara String Quartet returns for two Pro Musica concerts

By Michael Pearl

The stupendous Afiara String Quartet will give two concerts for Pro Musica on Saturday and Sunday, January 11 and 12, St. Paul’s Church, calle Cardo 6, both at 5pm. Now making their third appearance in San Miguel for Pro Musica, they have become much loved by our audience, for whom only the best in classical music is good enough.

Pro Musica Concert Series
Afiara String Quartet
Sat & Sun, Jan 11 & 12, 5pm
St. Paul’s Church
Calle Cardo 6
100/200/300 pesos

This summer, I saw them perform a stunning concert in London’s famous Wigmore Hall where, before a packed house of one of the world’s most discerning audiences, they took it by storm. That will come as no surprise to anyone who was present last March when they performed the Brahms Piano Quintet with Stephen Prutsman in San Miguel. After the performance, many people came up to me and said that it was the finest concert they had ever heard.

Prepare to sit on the edge of your seat (or pew!) and expect a mind-altering experience. Indeed, come on both days, as the programs will be completely different. Even for the Afiara, these back-to-back performances are highly ambitious programs that cover three centuries of great works by Hayden, Dvořák, and Schumann, to be performed during the first concert, with Beethoven, Mozart and Wolf rounding off the second evening.

On Saturday, Haydn’s light-hearted composition, The Birds, ushers in the program with its high spirits, trilling violins and twittering sounds, which puts listeners in a cheerful mood. Chirruping effects flutter in the air as the music creates feathered images that seem to fly through the four movements. The final moment offers a Slavonic melody, suggesting much merry-making, with nature as the backdrop. Ideal for San Miguel!

Following on the heels of Haydn’s humorous work is Schumann’s serious String Quartet in A minor. Slow and deeply expressive, there is much complexity in this tour de force quartet, which magnifies a myriad of moods and tonal contrasts. The staggering challenges within the work’s structure suggest Schumann was a genius, plagued by extreme emotional angst and unbridled madness. Tempo changes and even a wrong key segment have caused much consternation and frustration for those trying to both grasp and enjoy all the multiple themes running in this profound work.

To end Saturday’s program, the Afiara will play the lovely String Quartet in E-flat major by Dvořák. Polka, Czech and Slavonic themes, even a dumka, that jump from melancholy to exhilaration, make this rhythmically colorful composition quite thrilling.

Sunday’s concert opens with Hugo Wolf’s Italian Serenade. Fancifully based on a poem from a German novella, the fast-moving music offers a loose rondo, which is rich in varied rhythms and balanced by sweet passages that convey a soldier singing to his beloved.

The next work wanders back in time some 200 years, with the performance of Mozart’s Dissonance—also called the String Quartet No.19 in C major. It breaks all rules of conventional structures. Ominous and darkly dissonant in several of its four movements, the work presents a fascinating side to Mozart’s creative reach. The final movement’s Molto allegro reminds us of the optimistic spirit of this composer, whose irrepressibly happy music is both sublime and exhilarating.

The program reaches its climax with Beethoven’s Opus 131 in C minor, considered by the composer to be his finest work for string quartet. Written in 1826, a year before his death, this magnificent work contains melodies expressing supreme torment and sorrow. Rollercoaster rhythms, key and tempo changes, mood variations, thrilling trills and playful pizzicatos prove his musical genius was magnificently intact—despite his deafness.

All in all, this will be a weekend of exhilarating music-making with one of the best string quartets playing today.

Tickets for the concerts, at 100, 200 and 300 pesos donation each, are available at La Tienda in the Biblioteca, Insurgentes 25; Solutions, Mesones 57; La Conexión, Aldama 3; St. Paul’s Church, calle Cardo 6, Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm, and at the door half an hour before the concert begins.

The quality of the music and opera Pro Musica brings to San Miguel, our unique Rhythm, Rhyme & Reason program, teaching music in underprivileged schools in the campo, and our work in the city’s orphanages, costs increasing amounts of money to provide. The best way to help us fund our activities is to become a Patron Member. Patron membership costs as little as US$100 per year, is tax deductible in the US, and includes many benefits, such as complimentary concert tickets and Meet the Artists suppers and cocktail parties. For information on all of Pro Musica’s concerts for the 2013-2014 season and Patron Membership, please visit our website: or e-mail


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