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Quito’s Short-Lived London Sextett.


During the first decade of the 20th century, the Terán siblings, Augusto, Enrique and Teodelinda, were students in the National Conservatory of Music in Quito, Ecuador. Augusto was a flutist, his brother Enrique (1887-1943) was a violinist and his sister was a cellist. In 1906, their father, General Emilio María Terán, led a bloodless coup that restored Eloy Alfaro to the presidency in that country. In May it was reported that Terán had been named Minister Plenipotentiary of Ecuador in Great Britain. In this position he was able to arrange scholarships for his children, as well as for another young conservatory student, violinist Pedro Paz (1893-1975), to study music in London.

In July 1909, the Teráns brought back to Quito two of their teachers, the Spanish violinist Alfredo Fernández y Aspra (b. 1874) and the English flutist and pianist Sidney Knapp. The two had been members of the Queen’s Hall Orchestra, but perhaps the Terán siblings convinced them, in light of an upcoming international exposition in Ecuador, that there would be many lucrative performance opportunities in that South American country.

Going by the name London Sextett, the group gave its first performance in the Sucre Theater on July 22, 1909. Although the program co
London Sextett Chamber Music Groupnsisted of mainly solo works for violin, cello and piano, the ensemble also played chamber music, including a Beethoven quartet in F major and an arrangement of the second movement of Beethoven’s first symphony. The six players were warmly received, and two days later, in one of Quito’s most important newspapers, a euphoric concert review was published that covered nearly half of an entire page!

In September of that same year Fernández petitioned the government for the use of the Suc
re Theater for a series of weekly concerts. However, by this time, the theater was being used by an Italian opera company that had been brought to Quito by Ulderico Marcelli (1882-1962), who was the violin professor in the National Conservatory. Furthermore, the sextet’s initial concerts, from an economic standpoint, had been a complete and utter failure. The government, no longer interested in supporting the ensemble, denied the request.

However, Marcelli, too, had run afoul of the government: His opera company went bankrupt, his contract with the conservatory was cancelled and he was expelled from the country. The director of the conservatory, Domenico Brescia (1866-1939) offered the violin instructor position to Fernández, who by this time had been widely recognized as the finest violinist to ever visit Ecuador. Fernández, perhaps to politely reject the offer, asked for an outrageous salary and an exceptionally light teaching load.

Although further concerts were hinted at in the local newspapers in mid January, by about the third week of that month it was reported that the two European musicians would soon be departing.

Later that year a photograph of the ensemble was published in “La ilustración ecuatoriana,” which was a popular literary and cultural magazine at that time. In this photo can be seen, from left to right, Augusto Terán, Teodelinda Terán, Pedro Paz, Enrique Terán, Sidney Knapp and Alfredo Fernández y Aspra
.

For more information about the music of this country, including links to conservatories, university music departments and other institutes and organizations, please see our country resource page for Ecuador.

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