Photo: © Rainer Maillard

18 June 2012 – Deutsche Grammophon is proud to announce that it will be releasing the debut disc by the sensational young Simón Bolívar String Quartet, so extending the seven- year relationship that it has already enjoyed with the Quartet’s “parent” orchestra, the world- renowned Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, and its dynamic Grammy® award-winning Music Director – and exclusive DG recording artist – Gustavo Dudamel.

The announcement coincides with a rare London performance by the Simón Bolívar String Quartet, at the Southbank Centre on Sunday 24 June. An hour-long coupling of quartets by Schubert and Ginastera, the concert forms part of the SBSOV’s third Sounds Venezuela festival, celebrating the extraordinary achievements of the country’s now legendary, and much-emulated, programme for engineering social mobility through musical education, universally known and admired as El Sistema.

Yet, just like the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, in which the four members of the SBSQ all play as section leaders, violinists Alejandro Carreño (the SBSOV’s concertmaster) and Boris Suaréz, violist Ismel Campos and cellist Aimon Mata are not just infectiously enthusiastic ambassadors for El Sistema, and indeed for Venezuela (whose national colours the orchestra proudly wears whenever it plays its encores), but world-class string-players in their own right.

Gustavo Dudamel comments: “There are some obvious facts about this quartet, such as that they come from Venezuela, from the El Sistema family, that they were – and still are – the principals of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, but what you’ll experience new when you hear this album is the unique power of their music-making. It has the same characteristics as the orchestra from which they come – and you cannot imagine how pleased I am for them that Deutsche Grammophon has provided this important recording opportunity for them. I hope they inspire every listener as much as they have, and continue to, inspire me.”

Anyone who imagines classical chamber music to be a rarefied world of genteel gestures, polite manners and hushed responses is in for a refreshing surprise, for the SBSQ is not your typical string quartet. In these players’ hands, chamber music becomes not just a polite conversation around four music-stands, but a thrilling real-life drama, acted out by four equally engaged voices, each with its own remarkable part to play and story to tell. It’s typical of their passionate commitment and unpretentious informality that, rather than sitting down like most string quartet players, the two violinists and the viola player perform standing up, channelling their musical energy through their entire bodies.

For Alejandro Carreño, the SBSQ’s first violinist, the experience of playing in a string quartet “really opens your ears and your mind to new ideas”. Music, he believes, must be “made with passion, love and all your heart. Music is music, and art is art. For us, it’s not separated.” The players have dedicated their DG debut disc to Maestro Abreu, founder of El Sistema, and the repertoire they have chosen for it carefully reflects both the ensemble’s contemporary, New World outlook and its own very special history:

  • Composed in 1948, Alberto Ginastera’s First String Quartet exudes the sounds and rhythms of the composer’s native Argentinian folk music. Devilishly difficult to play, this will be the work’s first recording to enter the DG catalogue.

  • One of the most popular products of the Bohemian composer’s extended visit to the New World, Dvořák’s “American” Quartet receives a distinctly South American reading – another DG first.

  • Dedicated “to the victims of fascism and war”, Shostakovich’s 1960 String Quartet no. 8 is one of the great Russian composer’s most deeply personal, emotional and deservedly popular works – a true 20th-century classic, born of specifically Soviet political oppression yet transcending boundaries of place and time.

    Perfectly suited to these four young players’ ardent musical temperaments, all three works are performed with masterly refinement yet unmistakable Latin American energy and panache. Viola player Ismel Campos says: “Deutsche Grammophon has such an impressive tradition of great artists and ensembles, it’s an incredible honour to be invited to join their roster. But, like all our fellow Bolívars, we in the quartet feel we have our own unique message to communicate and we’re so grateful to DG for giving us the opportunity to share it with the world.”

    When the Simón Bolívar String Quartet last appeared in London, opening the 2010 Sounds Venezuela season at the Southbank Centre and later also launching that year’s International Chamber Music Season at the Sbc, the London Evening Standard admired their “precise” rhythms and “rich and focused” string tone, as well as the “detailed interplay within well- integrated textures that still allowed individuality to shine through”.

    Audiences attending the SBSQ’s next Southbank recital, on Sunday 24 June, will effectively be treated to a “sneak preview” of the ensemble’s forthcoming album, when the quartet couples Ginastera’s First Quartet with one of the great 19th-century Viennese classics, Franz Schubert’s perennially popular “Death and the Maiden” Quartet.

    International release Spring 2013 Pre-release Japan Autumn 2012

    Simón Bolívar String Quartet
    Alberto Ginastera String Quartet no. 1, op. 20
    Franz Schubert String Quartet in D minor, D 810 “Death and the Maiden” 6:30 pm, Sunday 24 June 2012
    Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, London SE1