R. MURRAY SCHAFER (b.1933): String Quartets No. 8, 9, 10 "Winter Birds", 11 & 12.
Catalogue Number: 05O076
Reference: ACD2 2672
Description: These quartets, all written since 2000, share a distinctive personal idiom, while each strives for, and achieves, very distinct expressive aims. Schafer's underlying vocabulary is strongly grounded in tonality, and his harmonies and melodic contours not infrequently resemble those of Shostakovich. However, and this is part of what makes his writing so distinctive, is, as it were, a second layer of far less conventional material, superimposed on the traditionally styled quartet writing. In the case of the 10th Quartet, for instance, which is a vividly descriptive, powerfully evocative depiction of a chill winter landscape, imitations of birdcalls an the distant knocking of something pecking at a treetrunk are added, briefly borrowing techniques from a more avant garde idiom; the last section of the piece features a brief spoken narration by the composer, describing the scene already represented in the music. The Ninth is a generally elegiac work in romantic style, but prerecorded children's voices add a conflicting commentary at several key points in the work. The Eleventh is a passionate sequence of five movements tied together by a recurring theme; here bending of notes and harsh attacks add an element of wild abandon to the post-romantic vocabulary. The last movement incorporates a pre-recorded æolian harp to complement the strings' imitation of one. The Eighth opens with birdcalls and harmonic glissandi, and a suggestion of eastern modality, alternating with a vigorous mid-20th-century idiom. The nocturnal second movement is more conventionally written, but incorporates spatial effects involving pre-recorded quartet material. The recent Twelfth compresses dramatically contrasting moods into a compressed, single-movement span, largely avoiding modernistic devices apart from some passages prominently involving extended glissandi. 2 CDs. Quatuor Molinari.