Pandora’s Box

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bedford and Zorn,Mason,Saunders
LABELS: Col legno
ALBUM TITLE: Pandora’s Box
WORKS: Works by Saunders, Mason, Bedford and Zorn
PERFORMER: Sarah Maria Sun (soprano); Arditti Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: WWE 1CD 20421

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This outstanding disc of contemporary works, performed live by the Arditti Quartet, is one of blazing beauty and invention. The collection opens with Rebecca Saunders’s Fletch (2012) which takes its name from the feathering affixed to arrows to hold their course, and in turn darts between the combative and a moving fragility. There follows Benedict Mason’s magnificent Second Quartet, performed with tremendous precision and sparkle. Composed in 1993, the work is a true musical adventure, its six ‘scenes’ exploring a wild and wonderful array of sound-worlds from sonic starlight to dying squeezebox to Doppler effect to quartet-as-percussion-instrument. Luke Bedford’s Wonderful Four-Headed Nightingale is adapted from the composer’s 2011 double concerto for violin, viola and chamber orchestra (consequently called ‘…Two-Headed…’). Drawing its title from a 19th-century singing sideshow act of conjoined twins, this clever and deeply expressive work sees the quartet split into shifting duos which echo, swerve, soar and fade.

The disc closes with the remarkable ‘dramatic monologue’ Pandora’s Box (2013) by American composer John Zorn. The work is at once operatic, darkly beautiful and surprisingly frightening, and features an exceptional performance by Sarah Maria Sun.

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Kate Wakeling