WORKS: Xenakis: Tetras; Ergma; Lachenmann: Gran Torso; Kurtág: Aus der Ferne III; Janácek: String Quartet No. 1 – Adagio; con moto
PERFORMER: Quartetto Danel
CATALOGUE NO: STR 33870
This live recording of a 2005 concert in Milan opens astoundingly with a performance of Xenakis’s Tetras that fizzes with energy (a quality the programme note ignores with all its talk of ‘bichords’ and ‘homorhythms’).
The disc’s ending, however, is bewildering, finishing as it does with the opening movement from Janácek’s First String Quartet. It is sensitively played, but one can not help feeling that this truncated inclusion is a disservice both to the piece and to the programme.
In general it is a line-up of tough listening; the opening Xenakis-Lachenmann-Xenakis trio could strike fear in even the most committed contemporary music enthusiast. Both composers challenge the traditional modes of quartet writing in fascinating ways: Xenakis creating thick walls of dissonance; Lachenmann revelling in creaks and whispers. The Kurtág is a more meditative after thought.
There is something rather immediate about the very close miking; the quartet sound as if they are sitting right beside you, though one hopes for a better acoustic in the concert hall than in one’s living room. Page turns and breathing are regular sonic features but only the Lachenmann (a piece that drifts in and out of silence) really suffers from extraneous noise. Neil Smith