Carter, Isang Yun

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COMPOSERS: Carter,Isang Yun
WORKS: Oboe Quartet; Four Lauds; A Six-Letter Letter; Figment & Figment II. Piri; Oboe Quartet
PERFORMER: Heinz Holliger (oboe, cor anglais), Thomas Zehetmair (violin), Ruth Killius (viola), Thomas Demenga (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 472 787-2
Composed in 2001, Elliott Carter’s Oboe Quartet has all the qualities we associate with his astonishing late music – the buoyant, effortless invention, perfectly characterised for every instrument, the melding of musical episodes into a single, perfectly seamless span, the sheer delight in creativity that is conveyed in every note. Carter composed the Quartet for Heinz Holliger (for whom he also wrote his Oboe Concerto), and he and his distinguished trio of string players allow the lighter-than-air invention its perfect weight, complementing the disc with some of the solo miniatures that have proliferated through Carter’s output in the last two decades – the celebratory Lauds for violin, the Figments for cello, and A Six-Letter Letter for cor anglais, which he wrote for the 90th birthday party of Paul Sacher, deriving its material from the letters of the conductor-philanthropist’s name.


The pairing with Isang Yun’s Oboe Quartet is not only appropriate because it, too, was composed for Holliger (in 1994, a year before Yun’s death) but because Carter was instrumental in getting Yun released from prison in South Korea in the Eighties, after he had been kidnapped in Germany and smuggled back to the land of his birth. Yun’s Quartet is a typically sinewy tangle of instrumental lines, which constantly challenges the expressive bounds of what single strands of music can convey; Piri for solo oboe (1971) has the same imperatives, and Holliger delivers them with quite astonishing intensity. Andrew Clements