Volans: Dancers on a Plane (String Quartet No. 5); The Ramanujan Notebooks (String Quartet No. 4); Movement for String Quartet

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COMPOSERS: Volans
LABELS: Collins
WORKS: Dancers on a Plane (String Quartet No. 5); The Ramanujan Notebooks (String Quartet No. 4); Movement for String Quartet
PERFORMER: Duke Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 14172 DDD
Dance has been a potent force on music from the earliest times. For composer Kevin Volans its influence has involved him in collaboration with distinguished choreographers like Siobhan Davies and has given a dance background to several of his more ‘abstract’ pieces, notably a series of five string quartets he has described as ‘the spine’ of his output.

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Natural sounds recorded from the composer’s South African homeland are a feature of the Fifth String Quartet, Dancers on a Plane, the effect being inspired by the painting of Jasper Johns. The note-to-note connection of the music is Stravinskian, though not in its breadth of phrase. Glacial episodes rub shoulders with long sections in which neutral-toned ideas are heard in a scheme of endless rhythmic permutation, conforming to the composer’s conception of the work of art as ‘an object in the world rather than a window into another world’.

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The brief, pungent variations of Movement are a tasty appetiser. From the standpoint of traditional quartet listening, the Fourth Quartet, The Ramanujan Notebooks, satisfies more expectations than many new works in the genre, its varied, complex textures expertly mastered by the dynamic Duke Quartet. Nicholas Williams