Carter: String Quartet No. 5; 90+; Cello Sonata; Figment; Duo; Fragment

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COMPOSERS: Carter
LABELS: Auvidis Montaigne
WORKS: String Quartet No. 5; 90+; Cello Sonata; Figment; Duo; Fragment
PERFORMER: Ursula Oppens (piano); Arditti Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: MO 782091
The Cello Sonata, written exactly half a century ago, was Carter’s first wholly characteristic score – a piece whose material grows directly out of the inherent contrast between the rhapsodic cello and the percussive piano. Much the same dialectic informs the gritty Duo of the early Seventies, whose opening pages set up an impassioned monologue for the violin, against a ‘neutral’ background of quiet piano chords whose duration is governed by the instrument’s sustaining capabilities.

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Interest in this new disc of Carter’s chamber music is likely to focus not so much on these earlier works, both of which have been recorded before, but on the new String Quartet No. 5, composed for the Arditti Quartet. It interweaves six strongly characterised movements with freer, more sparsely textured sections evoking the atmosphere of a rehearsal in which the players ‘discuss’ material already heard, or about to be heard. One of the movements, an Adagio sereno, is written entirely in airy harmonics – an idea that is carried over into another recent string quartet piece included here, called Fragment. The brilliant Figment for solo cello, and Carter’s salute to his nonagenarian friend Goffredo Petrassi – 90+ for piano – complete a richly rewarding disc. The performances, supervised by the composer, are all he could have wished for. Misha Donat