Riley, Webern, Nancarrow, Fitkin, Daugherty, PŠrt, Mackey, Nyman & Poppy

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COMPOSERS: Daugherty,Fitkin,Mackey,Nancarrow,Nyman & Poppy,Part,Riley,Webern
LABELS: Glissando
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Good Medicine
WORKS: Works for string quartet
PERFORMER: Smith Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 779 003-2
Good Medicine is the Smith Quartet’s first recital programme, and it is tempting to hear the overall sequence of pieces rather than its constituent items as the work under consideration. There is certainly some art in their ordering. Within the interstices of a web of bright and breezy minimalist vibrations offered by Terry Riley’s Good Medicine, Nyman’s In Re Don Giovanni and Graham Fitkin’s Servant are placed works that, in contrast, offer food for thought as well: Webern’s Five Pieces, Nancarrow’s String Quartet of 1945, Pärt’s Summa, Andrew Poppy’s Last Light and Steven Mackey’s Great Crossing, Great Divide. The last mentioned suggests the album’s subtext: the fruitful interaction of American and European musical art in our post-ideological times. The most haunting crossing and divide, however, come from the pen of Michael Daugherty, a composer who has specialised in exploring the nature of American icons. In his melodrama Paul Robeson Told Me, for string quartet and digital tape, searing folk-style Slavic tunes accompany the singer performing in Russian, as recorded on a radio broadcast from a Thirties tour of the Soviet Union. The raw and resinous sound of the Smiths in this piece is something that draws the ear to repeated hearings. Nicholas Williams