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Americas Society has recently been introducing the work of new composers to a wider audience, and in late February, the organization presented contemporary music by Latin American composers at Manhattan's Upper East Side cultural institution. The music was challenging both for the musicians and the audience, since most of it was very free-form and could sometimes be chaotic in nature.
The evening began with Venezuelan-born Manena Contreras' "Instantes," a five-part concerto that opened with an energetic movement filled with pizzicato passages and arpeggios that seemed extremely demanding for the musicians (violinists Emilie-Anne Gendron and Asmira Woodward-Page, violist Stephanie Griffin and cellist Michael Haas. Though the second movement, "Largo," had a softer feel, the remaining movements were very powerful. Contreras' native influences were apparent, as there were some Latin elements within the piece.
The piece was followed by Brazilian-born Arthur Kampela's "Uma Faca So Lamina," which the composer later described as a "work in progress" during a brief panel discussion. With massive sheet music before them, the group played screeching notes that were reminiscent of an old-time, short-wave radio combined with a bomber airplane making its approachbasically a combination of random sounds set to music. On the evening's playbill, Kampela wrote that the work was inspired by a poem by Brazilian constructivist writer Joao Cabral de Melo Neto that "illustrates our internal clocks always poking the insides of man no matter how we turn."
After the intermission and panel discussion, the quartet took on Bolivian-born Cergio Prudencio's "Transfiguraciones," which opened with a series of hisses and notes that later gravitated into music inspired by forest sounds.
The final piece, entitled "String Quartet No. 1: Montes," by Bolivia's Agustin Fernandez was structured in three movements and written as a tribute to the late painter Fernando Montes. Each part was titled after one of Montes' paintings. These were different from the previous works because these were more melodic pieces that were clearly influenced by English folk musica genre the composer has recently embraced.