Catalyst String Quartet debuts in San Miguel

By Michael Pearl

Catalyst Quartet - Zebra

Hailed by The New York Times at their Carnegie Hall debut as “invariably energetic and finely burnished…playing with earthy vigor,”  the Catalyst Quartet comprises top laureates and alumni of the internationally acclaimed Sphinx Competition for young Black and Latino string players.

Pro Musica Concert Series
Catalyst Quartet
Sat, Mar 8 & Sun, Mar 9, 5pm
St. Paul’s Church
Calle Cardo 6
100/200/300 pesos
Pro Musica Concert Series
Andreas Klein, piano
Sat, Mar 15, 5pm
Sun, Mar 16, 4pm
St. Paul’s Church
Calle Cardo 6
100/200/300 pesos

Pro Musica brings this unique ensemble to San Miguel for their first ever performances in the city on Saturday and Sunday, March 8 and 9, at 5pm, at St. Paul’s Church, Calle Cardo 6. They told me in an interview that their exciting repertoire “is inspired by music’s ability to transform, our desire to change the way classical music is perceived and inspire new and experienced audiences alike with dynamic performances of cutting-edge repertoire by a wide range of composers.”

The Catalyst recently completed their second tour of the United States as featured ensemble and principal players with the Sphinx Virtuosi, highlighted by their second appearance to a sold-out audience at both the Weill Recital Room and the Stern Auditorium in New York’s Carnegie Hall. They have also made their Kennedy Center debut in Washington, D.C.

The Quartet is dedicated to teaching, as well as performing, and they serve as principal faculty at the Sphinx Performance Academy at Northwestern University. They are visiting teaching artists at the Sphinx Preparatory Music Institute, hosted by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and participate in the Juilliard String Quartet Seminar and the Grand Canyon Music Festival.

The Catalyst has been featured in The Strad and Strings magazines, as well as on APM’s Performance Today, Houston Public Radio, Detroit Public Radio and Television. Their first recording was released in 2012 on the White Pine label.

The quartet will be performing two completely different concerts in San Miguel, offering a rich choice of works from the classic and modern eras. Saturday’s concert spans three centuries, opening with

Hayden’s majestic and merry String Quartet in G major. The 20th century brings Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for String Quartet, including “Danse”—a colorful piece brimming with country-folk spirit. It is followed by “Eccentrique,” which conveys a comedic flavor as it was inspired by my fellow countryman, Little Tich, an English music hall clown! Finally, “Cantique” ends the set in a tranquility that suggests secular inspiration.

The evening continues with Brahms at his best—the complex String Quartet No. 1 in C minor, which took him a decade to complete. The music has a massive spread of harmonics with melodies that are both tragic and exhilarating. The program includes a stirring mix of contemporary works by Golijov, the Catalyst’s own Jessie Montgomery and Walker. Golijov’s Tenebrae was inspired by Jerusalem and the planetarium in New York, and Walker’s 1946 piece, Lyric for Strings, took its inspirational theme from the passing of his grandmother. Both are captivating with their simple lines, but they have an energy that creates enormous emotional impact.

Sunday’s concert is equally rich, and American music dominates the evening. In Montgomery’s Strum, yearning and vitality are conveyed in the American folk dance idiom. Joan Tower’s In Memory is a moving tribute to the 9/11 tragedy that personally affected this great 20th-century composer. Philip Glass and Samuel Barber are also on the program. Their deeply moving works stand in contrast to the exciting rhythmic composition of Wapango, with its rich Mexican and Afro beats. The evening closes with the String Quartet No.1 by the iconic Charles Ives. Several gospel melodies featured in the four movements are full of joyous praise, and its resounding finale, with its hymns celebrating Jesus, are exhilarating enough to turn anyone into a believer.

Tickets for the concerts, Saturday & Sunday, March 8 & 9, 5pm, at 100, 200 and 300 pesos donation each, are available at St. Paul’s Church, Calle Cardo 6, Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm; La Tienda in the Biblioteca, Insurgentes 25; Solutions, Mesones 57; La Conexión, Aldama 3; daily until 2 p.m. on Saturday, and at the door half an hour before the concert begins.

The quality 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 cost 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 US$100 per year, is US tax deductible, 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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