The press release for Quatuor Bozzini’s new Aldo Clementi portrait disc alludes, in the form of a quote from the composer, to a peculiar sort of metamusical morbidity that was allegedly integral to his thinking. While his eldritch outlook is documented elsewhere as well, what is transmitted more clearly through this typically lucid Bozzini recording is an eccentric vitality.
Contextualizing Clementi amidst other parallel composers is no simple task. A common trait of many twentieth-century works is that the music itself, by virtue of its compositional language, tends to instruct its audience in how to listen to it. Clementi’s music, on the other hand seems reticent to guide listeners toward its particular features — even its own flatness of perspective. It neither bombards the listener with stimuli, nor is precious about detail; yet all the while it’s exceedingly subtle and frequently rife with ideas. Its harmonic world is often tight and chromatic, but it’s devoid of the expressionist narrative gravity that suffused the work of many of Clementi’s contemporaries.
Reticolo (1968) offers different strata of interlocking activity that are woven closely together in a manner that obfuscates change, yet produces sufficient energy to drive the work’s full eight minutes. The most recent work on the disc, the eighteen-minute Momento (2005), carries a similar effect of folding in upon itself. Framed in a more luminous harmony, it operates from a slow, continuous base. This texture is periodically both thinned out into single instrumental voices and punctuated with accents. Over its course it reveals material that paradoxically feels as though it’s constantly changing, while remaining perpetually familiar. Eventually, this obscure process is channelled through a more sibilant timbre, saturated with odd, overtone-rich lustre.
Knowing Quatuor Bozzini’s repertoire, one can understand their attraction to Clementi’s singular vision. Their investment is palpable on this recording, and their impeccably clear, mostly vibratoless inflection flatters Clementi’s remote yet generous work.