Notes and Editorial Reviews
As a lover of the string quartet idiom, I was more than interested in reviewing this disc and to see just how far John Luther Adams takes and bends this most perfect of musical forms, and bend it he does. This is not a quartet in classic sense, rather the four members, or ‘soloists’ following their own individual line and producing on the way some remarkable string sounds.
It begins with a kind of low drone on the cello and gradually develops and builds through gradually higher pitch to its ethereal conclusion. On the way we get notes that sound more akin to woodwind from the higher strings whilst the lower strings at times produce notes that sound like low brass. The piece ends with differing drones which I found reminiscent
of the sounds from a friend’s beehive and so returning again to John Luther Adams’ infatuation with nature. This is, as the composer attests, a melodic work, with the melody being broken up into short sections and played by the higher strings over the bass of the cello. I find this a wonderful quartet; one I have listened to repeatedly, although it is best listened to in a darkened room through headphones in order to enjoy the full experience. I must say that whilst you might think it an overly long work, as you listen to it time does not drag; rather it passes a lot quicker than you think and the piece ends before you expect it to.
The JACK Quartet shows remarkable control as it builds up the intensity and pitch of this quartet with each of the member’s parts clearly discernible, this being helped by the excellent recorded sound. Where this recording is lacking is in the booklet notation, all you get is the short paragraph included above. This work does however, makes me want to hear more of John Luther Adams’ music, and especially his three other string quartets.
– MusicWeb International (Stuart Sillitoe)
The whole point of the piece over its nearly hour duration is that of a slow and steady ascent. This could be very reductive, even boring, but in his exploration of different articulations—in particular tremolo—the move through the harmonic series of each string takes on great variety and presence.
In a way, the most extraordinary thing in the piece occurs in its last minutes. You are never quite sure the piece is over until it’s over, and that ambiguity is a strength; it gives the music real mystery.
– Fanfare Read less
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