The string quartet continues today in a wealth of compositions that epitomize at times the state-of-the-art of serious music as practiced in the Western world. There are lots of New Music albums coming out lately, and in the string quartet literature not the least are given to us, as several reviews on this blog space will attest. The plethora of the new can only be a good thing but it is a calling to try and explore it all. I cannot say I hear 100%. Perhaps nobody can. It is just not possible right now, but I do hang my ears at a good angle to catch all I can, and I am glad of it for there is much to like. Today we have a good example, the accomplished and exciting Sirius Quartet and Volume Three of their Playing On the Edge (Navona NV 6520). We hear and come to appreciate some nine New Music Quartets by the likes of Mark Edwards Wilson, Adam Grimes, Liova Bueno, Bernard Hughes, Nathan Wilson Ball, L Peter Deutsch, John Summers, Mark Eliot Jacobs, and Peter Dickson Lopez.
Danish composer Carl Nielson once famously remarked that his music should not be thought as beautiful, but rather as characteristic. Today we are thrown into the vortex of a new millenium and find that beauty has not become something only applicable to some past humanity, but rather an ongoing need for us all today and in the future. What that is however is not simple. We get nines composers with nine quartets that in some way come to terms with beauty in the face of a life sometimes rather starkly ugly out there.
We in the process come to appreciate the varied response of all nine composers, and in the end appreciate what new and serious shapes chamber music may take today, whether intricate interplay as in a post-Bartok realm, tonal in thick impastos of fundamental tones and added texture of some dissonance, earthy folk-like rhythmic life, tender yet all knowing lyricism, strident clusters of toinal life or lithely dancing string figuraton; or all of the above as you listen.
All this comes alive under the deeply skillful, the subtle interplay and memorable certitude of the Sirius Quartet at their finest. It is by no means a simple matter to characterize what New Chamber Music is all about today. Doubtless no single anthology can properly characteristic all the stylistic complexities involved, though this volume three of Edge gives us a pronounced post-Romantic and post-Dodecaphonic view of it all. It stays on the side of self-sufficient expression, not especially itching to dominate as a Modern School per se. And that is probably a healthy thing, do you think?
Highly recommended. Release date July 14, 2023. Listen to a preview of the music here https://www.navonarecords.com/catalog/nv6520/