There is no sibling rivalry in Cuarteto Latinoamericano.
It doesn’t matter that the group is made up of three brothers and their friend who has become as close as a brother. It doesn’t even matter that they’ve been performing together for more than 30 years.
They’ve never let family ties get in the way of their playing, not even when there’s potential of getting on each other’s nerves.
“When we’re together as a family, that’s when we’re brothers,” says Saul Bitran. “But we are unusual in that we’ve developed a relationship where we get along as brothers. We are professionals when we rehearse and perform. We’ve never had any problems.”
Saul speaks from the group’s American base in Boston while the rest of the quartet takes a break in its Mexican base of Mexico City. They’ll all come together on Wednesday in Baton Rouge to perform a concert in the LSU School of Music Recital Hall as part of the school’s String Quartet Series.
“We’ve each visited Louisiana individually, but this will be our first visit to Baton Rouge and our first time performing together in Louisiana,” Bitran says. “We’re also going to be teaching some classes to the string students at LSU while we’re there.”
Bitran is the youngest of the brothers. He and brother Aron play violin, while the third brother, Alvaro, plays cello. Their friend, Javier Montiel, rounds out the quartet on viola.
The brothers began playing string instruments as children.
“Our parents were responsible for enrolling us in music classes,” Bitran says. “They just wanted us to learn a musical instrument. They didn’t think it was any big deal. They were more interested in our education.”
Nor did his parents think the music lessons would lead to music conservatory and university music degrees, then the 1982 formation of Cuarteto Latinoamericano in Mexico, which would earn fame in world classical music circles.
Cuarteto Latinoamericano has performed in Europe, North and South America, Israel, China, Japan and New Zealand. The group was awarded a Latin Grammy in 2012, along with the Mexican Music Critics Association Award.
Its mission is performing classical music written for string quartets by Latin American composers. Some of this music dates back to the early 20th century, while other pieces are more contemporary.
“There is a lot of great classical music by Latin American composers that is unknown, and it’s fun for us to play this music for people to know,” Bitran says. “It’s hard to generalize these composers when describing their music. Some incorporate their Latin American roots into their music, and some kind of feature parts that speak to their Latin American origin. We’re happy that we’ve been able to achieve a little more awareness of this music.”