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Simaku: String Quartets No 2 & 3 / Kreutzer Quartet


Release Date: 05/27/2008 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8570428   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Thomas Simaku
Performer:  Morgan GoffPeter Sheppard SkaervedNeil HeydeMihailo Trandafilovski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kreutzer String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 15 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



SIMAKU Voci celesti, “String Quartet No. 3.” 1 Due sotto-voci. 2 Soliloquy I. 2 Soliloquy II. 3 Soliloquy III. 4 Radius, “String Quartet No. 3.” 1 Kreutzer Qrt; 1 Read more Peter Sheppard Skaerved (vn); 2 Morgan Goff (va); 4 Neil Heyde (vc) 3 NAXOS 8.570428 (74:34)


Thomas Simaku (b. 1958) is an Albanian-born British composer. He graduated from Tirana Conservatory, held a Leonard Bernstein Fellowship at Tanglewood, and received a doctorate in composition from the University of York. Even more than this international background, his music shows influences of his years studying Balkan folk music in southern Albania. Although his techniques go far beyond those of Bartók, Simaku’s music has the same strong folk character—while never resorting to folk melodies. More direct influences (these are my impressions, not his résumé) may be the elegance of Ligeti and the gritty intensity of Kurtág, a fascinating combination. I find the sounds eminently listenable, right from first hearing, and the music deeply satisfying. More conservative listeners are warned of Simaku’s aggressive harmonic palette, which occasionally slides into micro-tonality.


Written from 1998 ( Soliloquy I ) to 2004 ( Voci celesti ), each of these single-movement but multifaceted works lasts from 10 to 13 minutes. Simaku employs a wide dynamic range, often pared down to mere overtones and very occasionally screaming with everything strings can produce. His instrumental resources are conventional: strings are bowed or plucked; never is the box rapped or banged. In the Soliloquies he displays an uncanny ability to produce color and variety with a single instrument, yet it is never “hear what a viola can do” but rather “this is what I have to say, what I must express.” Multiplying that by four creates lustrous passages reminiscent of Bartók’s quartets. I am most moved by the Third Quartet and by Due sotto-voci for violin solo, which fully explores the contradictions of its title.


The Kreutzer Quartet (filled out by second violinist Mihailo Trandafilovski) has extensive experience with new music; the booklet makes the unlikely claim that “They are the dedicatees of well over two hundred works for string quartet.” It has recorded many contemporary works (although a Kreutzer Quartet that recorded Rochberg’s Quartet No, 3 for Naxos features four other players). These four obviously have a deep understanding and feeling for Simaku’s music, as well as the considerable chops needed to bring it off. Naxos’s recorded sound is pristine and is close enough to pick up those string harmonics. Simaku writes fascinating program notes, although some of his explanations and rationales for the pieces do not mesh with my early impressions. I’m eager to learn more, and to hear more of his work.


I have been put off by most new music of the past two decades; so much of it sounds phony to me, artificially aimed at one audience or another, motivated by or for political, economic, even pedagogical reasons. There is no sign of that here, nothing that suggests adapting to, or being limited by, any standards or conventions. Nor is there any virtuoso display, although this music must be difficult to play. I get the sense of pure music in a serious vein, its composer driven only by an internal need to express himself. This is what I have always wanted from music, and it’s rewarding to find another composer for the new century who satisfies my musical yearnings. I haven’t heard enough Simaku yet to position him with Golijov (as if that mattered); I’m just delighted to be enthralled by new music again. Instant Want List material!


FANFARE: James H. North
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Works on This Recording

1.
Quartet for Strings no 2 "Radius" by Thomas Simaku
Performer:  Morgan Goff (Viola), Peter Sheppard Skaerved (Violin), Neil Heyde (Cello),
Mihailo Trandafilovski (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kreutzer String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 13 Minutes 29 Secs. 
2.
Quartet for Strings no 3 "Voci Celesti" by Thomas Simaku
Performer:  Morgan Goff (Viola), Peter Sheppard Skaerved (Violin), Neil Heyde (Cello),
Mihailo Trandafilovski (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kreutzer String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 12 Minutes 57 Secs. 
3.
Sotto-Voce (2) for Violin solo by Thomas Simaku
Performer:  Peter Sheppard Skaerved (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 13 Minutes 39 Secs. 
4.
Soliloquy no 1 for Violin solo by Thomas Simaku
Performer:  Peter Sheppard Skaerved (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 10 Minutes 10 Secs. 
5.
Soliloquy no 2 for Cello solo by Thomas Simaku
Performer:  Neil Heyde (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 12 Minutes 52 Secs. 
6.
Soliloquy no 3 for Viola solo by Thomas Simaku
Performer:  Morgan Goff (Viola)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 11 Minutes 26 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Voci Celesti, "String Quartet No. 3"
Due Sotto, "Voci per Violino Solo"
Soliloquy I
Soliloquy II
Soliloquy III
Radius, "String Quartet No. 2"

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