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Claude Colpaert, Revue & Corrigée, no. 133, September 1, 2022
Friday, September 30, 2022 Press

Review

Ken Waxman, Jazz Word, September 19, 2022
Friday, September 23, 2022 Press

Moving from improvisation to interpretation, Quatuor Bozzini (QB) with violinists Alissa Chung and Clemens Markel violist Stéphanie Bozzini and cellist Isabelle Bozzini bring their proven skills in dealing with and commissioning contemporary concert piece to four string quartet combination by American composer Tom Johnson. Concerned with minimalism, repetition and mathematical techniques, three of the creations are divided into tiny shards, some as brief as 14 seconds, with the turnarounds and breaks in all almost as short. Overall the performances are vastly more tonal and circular than those on the other discs. However it’s a testament to the QB’s skill that the four make rhythmic and fluid what could have been a series of academic exercises. The five-part Combinations for String Quartet for instance that opens the disc, is a monument to simplicity and beauty. Through many unison sections and seemingly endless pattern repetitions, sprightly and floating responses enter into the unfolding. The cellist even manages to suggest a foot-tapping rhythm. Moving on from the harsh and buzzing interruption in the fourth section, the piece ends with warmer, more moderate developments. Additionally, the concluding seven-part Formulas for String Quartet evolves with same sort of layered and lyrical interface. Including harder bass clef strokes and back-and-forth linear thrust, the QB creates something that is lyrical and almost flowery, but not at the expense of conscious projections. The penultimate VII confirms this with speedy glissandi that move from allegro to staccato, and the concluding VIII that displays slightly nervous, but never dissonant timbres that connect appropriately.

… it’s a testament to the QB’s skill that the four make rhythmic and fluid what could have been a series of academic exercises.

Kritiek

Ben Taffijn, Nieuwe Noten, July 26, 2022
Friday, August 26, 2022 Press

De samenwerking tussen Quatuor Bozzini en Oesterle duurt al zo’n vijfentwintig jaar. Op Quatuors verzamelde het kwartet Oesterle’s derde en vierde kwartet, uit 2010, respectievelijk 2019; Three Pieces for String Quartet uit 2016 en het oudste stuk op dit album, het uit 2001 stammende Daydream Mechanics. Ook Oesterle kiest er in dit stuk voor om te werken met repetitieve patronen, al is zijn aanpak wel kleurrijker dan die van Johnson. Het derde kwartet kreeg als titel Alan Turing en vormt een eerbetoon aan deze geleerde en zijn creatieve geest. En ook hier weet Oesterle prachtige kleuren aan dit kwartet te ontlokken, zo te horen nogal eens gebruik makend van een onorthodoxe speelwijze. Zo associeer ik de klanken in het prachtige tweede deel niet altijd direct met dat van een strijkkwartet. Zeer overtuigend klinkt ook het bijzonder ritmische derde deel. Het uit één deel bestaande vierde kwartet is wellicht wel het hoogtepunt van dit album. Met zijn geometrische figuren creëert Oesterle hier een bijzonder overtuigende klanksculptuur, uiterst genuanceerd en rijk geschakeerd. En zoals alle stukken op deze twee albums, wordt ook dit kwartet ongelofelijk goed uitgevoerd.

With his geometric figures, Oesterle here creates a particularly convincing sound sculpture, extremely nuanced and richly shaded.

Kritiek

Ben Taffijn, Nieuwe Noten, July 26, 2022
Friday, August 26, 2022 Press

Als er één strijkkwartet niet mag ontbreken in een serie over hedendaagse strijkkwartetten dan is het wel Quatuor Bozzini. Dit Canadese kwartet wijdt zich al decennia aan louter hedendaagse muziek en heeft reeds een groot aantal werken, vaak speciaal voor hen geschreven, in première gebracht. Eerder dit jaar verschenen albums met stukken van Tom Johnson, Combinations en Michael Oesterle, Quatuors op hun eigen label, als download te verkrijgen.

Tom Johnson hoort bij de belangrijkste componisten van de Amerikaanse minimal music, ook al is hij minder bekend geworden dan Phililp Glass, Steve Reich en Terry Riley, zijn muziek is er niet minder boeiend door. Muziek ook die het uiterste vraagt van een strijkkwartet. De repetitieve figuren die Johnson direct in het kwartet waar het album zijn titel aan ontleent, Combinations gebruikt, vragen om een perfecte instrumentbeheersing en een optimaal gevoel voor timing. In het eerste deel in een vrij hoog ritmisch tempo, in het tweede, het vierde en vijfde deel in een veel tragere samenhang, maar in het derde in een tempo dat veel weg heeft van een dans. Prachtig hoe Johnson hier samenhang creëert tussen de vier strijkers. Tilework for String Quartet heeft slechts één deel, speels maakt Johnson hier gebruik van de toonladder. Opvallend is het uit vijftien delen bestaande Four-Note Chords in Four Voices, een opvallend ingetogen stuk. Tot slot klinkt het uit acht delen bestaande Formulas for String Quartet, waarin Johnson wederom werkt met een serie bijzondere patronen. Sommige daarvan zijn zeer fragiel, zoals de eerste twee, andere zoals bijvoorbeeld de vijfde, zijn opwindend ritmisch.

The repetitive figures that Johnson uses from the outset in the quartet from which the album takes its title, Combinations, require perfect control of the instruments and an optimal sense of timing.

Review

Dave Madden, The Squid’s Ear, August 22, 2022
Wednesday, August 24, 2022 Press

Where much music places the composer, their vision and their efforts to clarify every scratch on the page the center of the universe, John Cage eschewed the authoritative narrative — particularly in his latter-years — to promote a natural, not strict, order. It’s like asking someone “be yourself” instead of forcing them to smile or act in front of a camera while also offering a pep talk to influence the desired result. Further, though, the goal is to “insert the individual into the current in which everything passes.”

Having previously reimagined Prokofiev, Le Sacre du printemps and Bartók’s Mikrokosmos, the Quartetski collective aim their talents at Cage’s Four6, an aleatoric process focused on the initial selection of twelve sounds with “fixed characteristics (amplitude, overtone, structure etc.) “ These are progressed per several time brackets found on the player’s scores (each player has a different sheet); a diagonal line connecting multiple time brackets indicates that interactions should occur more frequently.

The realization here by Isaiah Ceccarelli on percussion and synthesizer, Philippe Lauzier on bass clarinet and synthesizer, guitarist Bernard Falaise, and Pierre-Yves Martel on electric bass is, not surprisingly based on the œuvre of these four gentlemen, is incredibly sensitive, reverent, a feeling of patient conjuring without the intent of finishing anything to term. Stepping into the “For any way of producing sounds” directions, the group adopts a loose focus on the lugubrious: a deep bass clarinet tone with a pleasing intro and bratty overblown honk is enlarged with an amplified bass note, which subsequently fills the speakers; arrhythmic taps on metal played to technically be defined as “sustained”; Falaise gently wringing his guitar’s neck into earthquake tremors. The synthetic sounds range from ruminating, dripping blobs one associates with modular synthesizer, musically complete textural environments, and “sour” organ prelude in the vein of Kali Malone and FUJI|||||||||||TA.

Seemingly intentional, a good number of Cage interpretations purposefully translate as sunny and mild-mannered as the man’s spirited laughter and smile, Quartetski’s Four6 is tense and spooky. Some of the twelve sounds involve (satisfying) electric guitar extended techniques and aforementioned warbling synthesizer gestures; even the cooing bass clarinet tags the end of long, passive sustained notes with a bratty overblown hiccup. I was immediately struck with how it crawls in the same ritualistic way and sonically (timbre) echoes Stockhausen’s 1968 work Aus den sieben Tagen, a piece whose text-based score provides details to guide the player to “Intuitive music” (“instant creation in which fixed principles or rules may or may not have been given”). That work exudes a mysterious sinisterness where it’s unclear if one should run or grab a blanket; am I hearing creation or prolonged destruction of the universe? It is sublimity — in the truest sense of the word — and the furrowed brow with intent stare of Stockhausen.

Per Cage’s side-bar on Four6: “When performed as a solo, the first player’s part is used and the piece is called One7.” Per Quartetski (Martel): “For any pitched instrument able to play sustained notes… each player derives a chromatic tone row obtained using chance operations.” Though obviously not a solo, this second work holds to Lauzier’s (player one) initial bass clarinet gesture as the other three members restrict their movements and in turn have less accidental exchanges (i.e. happenstance chords) than the previous piece. Instead of slightly deviating as on Four6, the formal connection now seems both united and independent with each player supporting and handing off the same line in a Klangfarbenmelodie fashion. The long notes move like rock climbing where the lead carefully scales, thoughtfully pauses to set a purchase for those below who are also working to keep the first guy secure, repeat until finished all while holding the same rope/lead.

The lesson one learns from Cage — when performing Cage — is that the freedom implied from a lack of dynamics, instrumentation etc. on the page can become an unforgivable obstacle in the conservative musician’s mind. When my undergraduate score analysis class was presented with one of the man’s works (missing the instructions and author’s name), we stared intently for an hour trying to envision how a performance of graphs and squiggly numbers could hold interest to anyone. Based on Quartetski’s endeavors, the problem was we 18th Century harmony, cadence and meter-obsessed students. Cage’s is as elegant as those playing and respecting it. Quartetski just happens to be naturally photogenic.

[…] incredibly sensitive, reverent, a feeling of patient conjuring without the intent of finishing anything to term.

Review

Brian Olewnick, The Squid’s Ear, August 16, 2022
Tuesday, August 16, 2022 Press

It is likely going too far to call it a trend, but in recent months there have been a number of releases from contemporary composers who reference pre- or early Renaissance composers in their pieces, both titularly and within the work, especially people like Hildegarde von Bingen and Johannes Ockeghem. It would seem to be a decent enough fit, especially to the extent that elements like drones, intertwined organ-y harmonies, etc. could be reasonably extended and transformed from such initial models. Ceccarelli, in previous releases on the Another Timbre label, has touched on this area, offering variations on Kyrie Eleisons and other church-based forms. On this gorgeous recording, he continues, obliquely, down the same path.

The only semi-direct reference to earlier times is in the enclosed text, in French, from an anonymous 14th century source. Ceccarelli employs a 16-member ensemble, including voice. The opening Prélude harks back directly to pre-Renaissance forms, though in a kind of state of suspension, the notes hanging a bit, less rigidly channeled. Bourdons, running more than 17 minutes, stretches things out beautifully and softly, luscious extended chords wafting through the room, gently buffeted by ringing percussion. In an odd way, it reminds this listener of a severely toned-down early version of Glenn Branca’s massive sound clouds — all the better, as well. Ceccarelli expands the palette in Des nuages noirs, forming a kind of sonic brocade (with soprano) that drifts further from traditional sources, still with long tones but the harmonies have modernized; quite a moving piece. The first of two Intermèdes is a mid-tempo dance, summoning memories of medieval recorder music while the second is a dark, low-string driven dirge, somber and chilling.

Aubade, another lengthy work, is in adjacent territory to Bourdons, a rich, welling hum, on the surface steady-state but containing all manner of complexities and just gorgeously arranged, an ecstatically enveloping experience. Another stately, almost minuet-like dance, Même au milieu de la vie leads, after the intervening second Intermède to the title piece. It shimmers in the air, with organetto, strings and metallophones forming a pulsing bed over which soprano Ellen Wieser floats in and out. Though remnants of an ecclesiastic sensibility remains, it goes beyond that, out into the wonders of the real world.

A marvelous recording, leaving this listener eager for more.

A marvelous recording, leaving this listener eager for more.