Delights & Dances
Harlem Quartet; Chicago Sinfonietta, Mei-Ann Chen (Cedille)
String quartet and orchestra do not often perform together, but "Delights & Dances" makes a decent case for the combination. The Harlem Quartet and the Chicago Sinfonietta (under conductor Mei-Ann Chen) pull off an energetic, well-blended performance. Their collaboration is best served by the title work written by Michael Ables for the quartet, which features a bluesy opening melody followed by a wailing bluegrass interlude that culminates in an epic, colorful finale. Music from Leonard Bernstein’s "West Side Story" — arranged into a concerto by Randall Craig Fleischer — is a little stiffer, but still enjoyable. Percussion and brass contribute to a splashy "Mambo" opening before the quartet members gently lean into a cha-cha melody that hints at "Maria." The shimmering quartet tones and the warm orchestra support each other admirably as the work moves into a languid rendering of the "America" opening and then heats up to a filigreed "Tonight" and a cinematic "Somewhere" finale. The recording also contains a moody Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra by Benjamin Lees and a brief but vibrant "Saibei Dance" by An-Lun Huang.