Mikrokosmos Sz 107: Quartetski Does Bartók

Quartetski / Béla Bartók, Pierre-Yves Martel

Technical virtuosity meets a virtuosity in cleverness is the best way to describe this music. Homage, respect, innovation: paint that on a banner and hang it at the next Quartetski show. The Squid’s Ear, ÉU

The CD confirms that the quintet can positively transform a revered composer’s supposedly unalterable work. The WholeNote, Canada

Quartetski retourne aux fondamentaux et propose une adaptation des études progressives du grand Béla Bartók. Avec Mikrokosmos, composée entre 1926 et 1939, Bartók avait tenté de résoudre certains problèmes techniques qui se posent dans l’art de jouer du piano. En se prêtant à cet exercice, les musiciens de Quartetski jouent une nouvelle fois aux bons petits élèves. Sans piano.


CD (AM 224)

  • Étiquette: Ambiances Magnétiques
  • AM 224
  • 2016
  • UCC 771028122424
  • Durée totale: 44:59
  • Boîtier sympathique
  • 126 mm × 126 mm × 5 mm
  • 35 g

Sur le web

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La presse en parle


Dave Madden, The Squid’s Ear, 18 septembre 2017

Quartetski’s interpretation of classic works has been a mixed approach in the best possible way. Their version of Stravinski’s Le Sacre du printemps adhered near 50% of the time to the mystical original, the other portion being a different type of genius musical accoutrement.* The group’s Prokofiev covers turned the Russian composer into a hard-bopping jazz man. Now the quintet (oh the irony) sifts through 96 acts that make up the first three books of “progressive piano pieces” by Béla Bartók’s Mikrokosmos and offers 25 greatest hits.

The results here are… fun. They range from playful, naïve (per the simpler works intended as etudes for Bartók’s young son Péter) to mischievous to bold to sweet and stark. Livre I: I. Six mélodies à l’unisson wiggles out of the corner with Bernard Falaise’s gentle guitar melody. He hangs on a last note as Phillippe Lauzier’s bass clarinet and Isaiah Ceccarelli on xylophone meander in the delicate simplicity. Violinist Joshua Zubot offers a syrupy line and pause before the group — with Pierre-Yves Martel rounding out the mix on electric bass guitar — slams into a stint of rocking out. Turning on a dime, Lauzier is joined by a drifting melodica until a micro-burst of slinky jazz slips in. Livre III: XIII. Gamme pentatonique shimmers with a bloated pitch-shifting guitar (as in it sounds like someone skronking on a harmonizer pedal), slightly-out-of-tune synth and lively pizzicato from Zubot. An icy, wandering duet of wind instruments (soprano sax riffing that would make sense coming out of Evan Parker) meets lithe, mandolin-like strums, and the band slams back into the relatively pummeling, lugubrious rock; the mania of the sax persists as the rest of the crew hunker into a big ol’ groove.

Livre II: VI. Accompagnement en accords brisés comes with slide whistle sounds, pick slides, sexy rhythmic patterns, fun accordion-like chords (more melodica), the work coming off as Tom Waits scoring a Jim Jarmusch flick; Livre II: X. Méditation adopts the same aesthetic, but adds sultry tremolo guitar to the fold. Livre II: Dialogue is 43 seconds of punctuating distorted crunch whose last pluck probably ended with tongue out and a devil horns hand pose.

Makrokosmos, the final and longest piece at over nine minutes, is the quintet sinking into a wave of droning material with wispy gestures of bowed cymbals, squeaking harmonics and deep rumbles percolating to the surface. The juxtaposition of style here furthers the mystique of the album in that, sonically, it eulogizes the previous tracks. “Bartók, you are why we are gathered today, and this record is an artifact to the influence you had on us. Look at what your legacy produced!

Technical virtuosity meets a virtuosity in cleverness is the best way to describe this music. Homage, respect, innovation: paint that on a banner and hang it at the next Quartetski show.

*This is an album that will be included in my desert island bunker.

Technical virtuosity meets a virtuosity in cleverness is the best way to describe this music. Homage, respect, innovation: paint that on a banner and hang it at the next Quartetski show.

Something In The Air: Musical Inspirations Arise from Unexpected Sources

Ken Waxman, The WholeNote, 1 septembre 2016

Creativity may, as the aphorism says, be 90 percent perspiration and 10 percent inspiration. But finding the proper inspiration can be a challenge in itself. Like a mathematical theorem made up of various formulae, stimulus for music — especially creative music —arrives from anywhere. Consider these discs whose genesis couldn’t be more dissimilar, but whose interpretation is of uniform high quality.

Turning another page in its scorebook filled with the themes of composers from the so-called classical music cannon, Montréal-based Quartetski — now a quintet — Does Bartok, on Mikrikosmos Sz 107 (Ambiances Magnétiques AM 224 CD). It reconfigures to group improvisation piano pieces composed by Hungarian Béla Bartók (1881-1945) to synthesize musical and technical problems. Bartók, who was as attuned to Magyar folk music as his contemporary Arnold Schoenberg was to serialism, could never have imagined Quartetski’s instrumental make-up, unless he was also a futurist. The band is reedist Philippe Lauzier, guitarist Bernard Falaise, violinist Joshua Zubot, drummer Isaiah Ceccarelli and Pierre-Yves Martel, playing electric bass and synthesize. Like films whose interpretation of a literary source is radically different, but representative, Quartetski’s 25-track variant of the œuvre adding jazz, folk, rock and electronic inflections must be judged on its own. One reductionist way to approach this material is to itemize how often and quickly musical currents appear and disappear. For instance take the many transitions which are evident during the sequenced five tracks: En mode mixolydien #48, Unisson divisé #52, Mélodie en dixièmes #56, Majeur et mineur #59, Triolets #75 and Hommage à Robert Schumann #80. Near-Heavy Metal thuds and clangs struggle for space alongside pastoral reed notes and high-European string swells. Later, like a space ship from the future landing in primitive times, contemporary timbres are subsumed beneath electronic loops. Paradoxically, when the themes are more obtuse, a buoyant melody is created where rugged, Eastern European dance inferences mix up with crinkly guitar flanges. Similar schematic diagrams could be constructed for other sequences which append inferences including Hawaiian guitar-styled licks to an electric bass line reminiscent of Stax-Volt. But the key linkage appears among other tracks, Six mélodies à l’unisson, Notes pointées, #7, Mains alternées #10, Mouvement parallèle#11 and Danse hongroise #68 plus Mélodie contre double-cordes #70. Prominent among the calliope-like motifs and synthesizer smears is an arching narrative that by the end adds Prairie hints to the Magyar countryside. Quartetski’s originality is confirmed on the group-composed title track. Like the inevitability of waves hitting and receding from the shore, the performance bonds string sweeps, aviary reed whistles and an electric undertow into tremolo washes. The CD confirms that the quintet can positively transform a revered composer’s supposedly unalterable work.

The CD confirms that the quintet can positively transform a revered composer’s supposedly unalterable work.


Pierre Durr, Revue & Corrigée, no 109, 1 septembre 2016
Les productions du collectif Ambiances Magnétiques restent fidèles à elles-mêmes et à leur éclectisme


Roland Torres, SilenceAndSound, 28 août 2016

Il est assez fascinant d’observer comment certaines œuvres écrites pour des instruments en particulier, se voient revisiter et transposer différemment, subissant ainsi une relecture et une réinterprétation collant au plus près de notre époque.

A l’image du groupe belge WÖR, qui revisite le répertoire du 18e siècle avec des instruments d’aujourd’hui, Quartetski s’attaque à Mikrokosmos, œuvre pour piano du compositeur Béla Bartók composée entre 1926 et 1939, à l’aide de guitare électrique, batterie, basse, saxophone, synthétiseur, mélodica… oscillant entre musique contemporaine, electro-acoustique et impulsions jazz.

Véritable challenge, quand on sait que Mikrokosmos a été composé pour résoudre certains problèmes dans l’art de jouer du piano, les tracks proposés par Quartetski font rentrer de plain pied l’œuvre de Béla Bartók dans une autre dimension, entre fable contemporaine et musique théâtrale, où les instruments décrivent des arcs de cercle lumineux aux trajectoires rêveuses.

La grande force de Quartertski est de conserver l’esprit avant-gardiste du compositeur roumain tout en se l’appropriant, pour en livrer une vision foncièrement contemporaine, où les instruments utilisés servent et amplifient les recherches misent en œuvre sur Mikrokosmos, démultipliant les pistes pour flirter avec l’universalité de la création artistique. Un album surprenant aux pistes et propositions multiples, magnifiant l’œuvre originale pour la transporter intelligemment jusqu’à nous. Très fortement recommandé.

Très fortement recommandé.

Whither Canada? Part 1

Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector, 19 août 2016

Mikrokosmos: Quartetski Does Bartók (AM 224 CD) is a much more successful instance of the cross-fertilisation and bridge-building which I assume Nicolas Caloia is aiming at. This Montréal five-piece (confounding expectations raised by their name that they might be a four-piece) strive to reinterpret classical music in a contemporary setting, and on the evidence of this release they do it very well, producing a listenable and entertaining experience. Pierre Yves-Martel (bass, synth) and Philippe Lauzier (woodwinds) are present, along with the electric guitarist Bernard Falaise, the violinist Joshua Zubot, and the drummer Isaiah Ceccarelli. Images of their stage set make Quartetski look like a cross between a chamber ensemble and a rock group, and their music delivers precisely that — original melodies and arrangements reshuffled into accessible modernistic arrangements, with a jazzy swing feeling, dissonant noises and scrapes from the violin, loud rockist segments from the guitarist, and even free improv elements from the woodwind section. A lot of stop-starts, quick changes, and poised dynamics allowing each musician to shine; the brevity of these pieces, and the slight air of genial clunkiness in the playing, also made me think of Maher Shalal Hash Baz. I’m not at all familiar with the works of Bartók, and a purist classical buff might give a more cautious reception to this album (or even retreat from it in horror), but ignorance is bliss and I’m finding this a pleasant spin today. When Michal Libera does cultural mashups for his Bolt Label, he’s trying to get the audience to ask deep and searching questions about the meaning of things we previously took for granted; Quartetski are simpler, and they just want us to enjoy good music in a new setting, with fresh ears. If you want more of this, they “did” a Prokofiev album in 2007 for Ambiences Magnétiques. Fine work.

I’m finding this a pleasant spin today


Stuart Broomer, Musicworks, no 125, 1 juin 2016
The treatments range from whimsical to revelatory.


Łukasz Komła, Nowamuzyka, 30 avril 2016

Kanadyjski zespół Quartetski jest raczej mało znany w Polsce, ale od kilku lat członkowie tej grupy interpretują na nowo dzieła różnych kompozytorów. Tym razem padło na Béla Bartóka.

Formacja powstała w 2007 roku w Montréalu z inicjatywy Pierre-Yves Martela (viola da gamba, bas elektryczny, kontrabas, syntezator, obiekty). Później dołączyli do niego tacy muzycy jak Isaiah Ceccarelli (perkusja, metalofony), Bernard Falaise (gitara elektryczna), Philippe Lauzier (klarnet basowy, saksofon sopranowy, melodyka) i Joshua Zubot (skrzypce).

Do tej pory artyści wzięli na warsztat kompozycje Igora Strawińskiego, Modesta Musorgskiego, Johna Cage’a, Tobiasa Hume’a, Erika Satiego oraz Siergieja Prokofjewa. Teraz mamy Béla Bartóka i jego monumentalne dzieło Mikrokosmos napisane w latach 1926-1939, na które złożyły się 153 fragmenty zaaranżowane na fortepian. Kanadyjczycy tworząc swoje wersje miniatur Bartóka nie korzystali z brzmienia tego instrumentu. Woleli podejść do utworów węgierskiego kompozytora w mniej standardowy sposób, czego możemy doświadczyć na płycie Mikrokosmos Sz 107: Quartetski Does Bartók.


Réjean Beaucage, Voir, 29 mars 2016

C’est un filon extraordinaire que les membres de Quartetski ont choisi d’exploiter en revisitant avec une grande liberté des chefs-d’œuvre du répertoire «classique» (Satie, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Cage, etc.). Les Mikrokosmos de Béla Bartók, c’est 153 petites pièces didactiques pour piano, réparties dans six livres selon un ordre de difficulté croissant. Celui qui s’y colle n’apprend pas seulement à jouer du piano, mais surtout ce qu’est la musique, tous les «trucs» de compositeur étant aussi au programme. Ce n’est pas la première fois que le recueil fait l’objet d’arrangements, mais les Quartetski réunis autour du bassiste Pierre-Yves Martel offrent aux 23 extraits choisis un traitement très créatif à travers des interprétations qui leur donne une nouvelle vie. Superbe.