Glass: String Quartet No. 2 (Company); Pärt: Summa; Uçarsu: String Quartet No. 2 (The Untold); Vasks: String Quartet No. 4
Onyx Classics ONYX 4171
This outstanding CD from the Istanbul-based Borusan Quartet explores a diverse collection of modern string quartets with tremendous spirit and poise. Arvo Pärt’s restless Summa (1977), an early example of the composer’s ‘tintinnabuli’ style, opens the disc. It is paired with Philip Glass’s String Quartet No. 2 (1983), originally composed to accompany a staged adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s novel Company and here performed with apt intensity and precision.
Written for the Kronos Quartet, Pēteris Vasks’s String Quartet No. 4 (1999) was dedicated to his mother on her 90th birthday and offers a moving reflection on the century she witnessed. Passing from the tranquility of pre-war years to the brutality of conflict, the work reaches its close with a poignant ‘Meditation’, the first violin floating across the quartet at dizzying heights – played here with a stupendously beautiful tone – as the ensemble treads lightly below.
A rare find, Turkish composer Hasan Uçarsu’s String Quartet No. 2 (subtitled ‘The Untold’) blends the fiercely modern with a rich evocation of traditional Turkish folk music. The quartet’s outer movements conjure a glass-like transparency in dazzling harmonics, set initially against fierce and erratic pizzicato. The second movement commemorates renowned Turkish folk musician Neşet Ertaş and the tremolo strings of the Bağlama, a Turkish long-necked lute, while the blustering third movement evokes the ‘hurly burly’ of Hıdırellez, a festival to welcome in the summer, in a rush of clipped, sul ponte chords. With its intriguing programming and flawless performances, Company is a first-class disc and the Borusan Quartet is an ensemble to watch.
Listen to an excerpt from this recording here.