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The Cuarteto LatinoAmericano is arguably the most highly respected string quartet based in Mexico. And yet this ensemble often avoids the beaten path in its choice of repertory, focusing in great part on modern Latin American works.
The players have garnered much acclaim for their unique style and powerful technical skills and are generally credited with exerting a profound influence on younger-generation Mexican string players. But their popularity and influence have also spilled over to North America and across the ocean to Europe and elsewhere, both because of their numerous concert tours and their many recordings. Though their repertory is rich in Latin American fare, including the 17 quartets of Villa-Lobos and works by Revueltas, Ginastera, Piazzolla, Chávez, Federico Ibarra, Carlos Guastavino, Mario Lavista, Arturo Márquez, and countless others, it is also inclusive of a vast range of European and American composers from Boccherini, Haydn, and Mozart to Bartók, Shostakovich, Michael Daugherty, and Aaron Jay Kernis. The ensemble has made nearly 30 recordings spread over several labels, including Dorian, New Albion, Mode Records, and Urtext.
The Cuarteto LatinoAmericano was formed in Mexico in 1982. At the heart of its membership are three brothers: Saúl Bitrán (first violin), Arón Bitrán (second violin), and Alvaro Bitrán (cello). The fourth member is violist Javier Montiel. The ensemble steadily built its reputation in its early years, achieving major recognition in the United States from 1988, the year it was named quartet-in-residence at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University. In 2008 the quartet left that post to serve as quartet-in-residence at the Mexico City-based Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes.
During its American years the group frequently toured the U.S., Mexico, and South America, as well as Europe and New Zealand. It has appeared with leading artists, including guitarists Sharon Isbin and Narciso Yepes, pianists Cyprien Katsaris and Rudolf Buchbinder, and cellist Janos Starker. It has also performed with numerous front-rank orchestras, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Dallas Symphony, and received two Grammy nominations, both in 2002 for the acclaimed final volume in the six-disc Villa-Lobos quartet cycle (Nos. 4, 9, and 11) on the Dorian label. The Cuarteto LatinoAmericano has carried a heavy concert schedule over the years: indeed, the 2008 calendar featured tours of Mexico, Canada, U.S., and the Netherlands. The group's recordings include the 2008 release of Tango Sensations on the CD Baby label, with works by Piazzolla and Carlos Guastavino, and the complete string quartets of Villa-Lobos for Dorian in 2009. The group also maintained a tour schedule with 2012 dates in the U.S., Mexico, and Europe.