The members of the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet are not household names even in the city they claim as their own, but gushing praise of their nylon-string tapestries emanate from fans in both high and low places. “Flawless, musical and witty, this quartet is able to do anything it sets its mind on,” says England’s Classical Guitar Magazine. The newspaper in Athens, Georgia, lauded their “passion and breath-taking dexterity”; while the St. Louis Post deemed them “technically perfect” and the Boise Weekly referred to their “collaborative genious [sic] and technical mastery.” Soundboard summed it up in 2004: “One of the world’s foremost ensembles.”
Founded more than 20 years ago, the current configuration of the MGQ has been together since 2002 (and still includes two original members), and collectively boasts an impressive resume for earning grants, teaching positions, commissions and awards. They have fostered a familiarity that heightens their exchanges, which are immersed in the traditions of chamber music and string quartets but freshened by new compositions and innovative arrangements from both band members and works they have commissioned.
All that aside, the MGQ are at their most compelling in collaboration with Colette Illarde, a Chicago native who trained in ballet before discovering her true love in flamenco dancing and Spanish culture. Two years ago, Illarde and the quartet performed a pair of spectacular, sold-out shows at the Southern Theater, interpreting “Six Pieces on Spanish Folk Songs,” originally composed for piano by Enrique Granados. Highlighted by Illarde’s flowing choreography and the MGQ’s dynamic arrangement, which ranged from delicate wisps on sound and movement to moments of full-flung intensity by all five performers, “Six Pieces” was a memorable engagement. Here are excerpts from the show.
Now Illarde and the MGQ are back at the Southern with another Spanish-themed production based on the music of the great 20th Century composer Joaquin Rodrigo. In addition to a pair of four-movement works by Rodrigo, the program will also include “Three Finnish Pieces” by composer Maria Kalaniemi and something from Peter Maxwell Davies.
The Minneapolis Guitar Quartet with dancer Colette Illarde, at the Southern Theater, Friday and Saturday nights, July 10 and 11, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, July 12, at 2 p.m.; tickets $22. Also, Colette Illarde master class, Saturday, July 11, at 10:30 a.m.; $10.