Notes and Editorial Reviews
CANDYBOX: STRING QUARTET SWEETS FROM BARTÓK TO JENKINS
Matangi Str Qrt; Zita Mikijanska (hpd
CHALLENGE CC72353 (60:19)
(Ma mie qui danse).
Concerto Grosso per Archi e Cembalo:
String Quartet No. 2.
Caixa de Dolços.
Música de Feria.
Meditation Svetý Václave
I have often made the pronouncement in these pages that the level of instrumental playing these days is far superior to that of a generation ago. The youthful (despite the fact that this release is in celebration of its 10th year), Netherlands-based Matangi Quartet eloquently supports my contention. Its intonation, articulation, rhythmic acuity, and control of both color and balance are exemplary. More essentially, the musicians unfailingly demonstrate total empathy with the music before them. The result is extraordinarily vital ensemble playing. “In Hinduism,” according to Wikipedia, “Matangi is the aspect of Devi (in other words, the Mahavidya), who is the patron of inner thought and speech. She guides her devotee to the incaused primordial sound.” Here that notion and ideal are both compellingly and illuminatingly fulfilled.
The Matangi Quartet’s choice of repertoire is revealing—well-crafted music that can be instantly understood by the listener and that, ultimately, tastes like nothing more forbidding than the contents of a comforting box of candy. The newer of these pieces are a far cry from much of the new music of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, wherein composers seemed more intent on composing for the approval, or disapproval, of their fiercely partisan colleagues than for the general public. Our younger composers from all corners of the globe are striving, first and foremost, for accessibility despite their use of often arcane compositional devices and their multicultural eclecticism that would make Charles Ives smile approvingly. I won’t dwell on the better-known composers in this collection except to say that here their respective, and contrasting, sound worlds are realized with striking vividness.
Vladimir Godár was born in Bratislava in 1956. Though virtually unknown internationally, he has made a local name for himself in the realms of film music and music scholarship as well as in composition. The Matangi Quartet offers the final movement of his
Concerto Grosso for 12 Strings and Harpsichord
, here arranged for string quartet by Gene Carl. It is a hauntingly sustained meditation in the manners of Arvo Pärt and Henryk Górecki.
Chiel Meijering was born in Amsterdam in 1954 and is the composer of more than 300 works. His
Caixa de Dolços
, in its rhythmic dislocations and general affect, recalls variously the contrasting worlds of Piazzolla and Petrova.
I will spend a good deal of space on Karl Jenkins because he best exemplifies the ideals and careers of both Vladimir Godár and Chiel Meigering. Born in Wales in 1944, Jenkins bestrides the still seemingly exclusive, on this side of the pond at any rate, realms of classical and pop. Trained initially by his father and far later at the Royal Academy of Music, he first took up the oboe. He also gained proficiency on the baritone and soprano saxophones and keyboards, and spent the early part of his career as a jazz and jazz-rock musician, ultimately co-founding, with composer Graham Collier, the jazz-rock group Nucleus, which won first prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1970. This is but one facet of his musical odyssey. Along the way he subsequently brought Hindemith’s term
to a more contemporary level by creating successful advertising music for firms as diverse as Levi’s, Pepsi, and De Beers diamonds, and, as a result, winning a couple of prestigious trade awards. The first movement of his String Quartet No. 2 of 1995 is an homage to the Minimalists of now some 40 years ago. Its harmonic rhythm, however, is closer to that of Haydn than to Philip Glass, and it works admirably. The remaining movements—Tango, Waltz, Romanze, and Bits—are deftly distilled manifestations of dance forms wherein their essences are realized with a fundamental purity that would make Haydn, the composer of literally thousands of minuets, beam with delight.
Technically speaking, the sound of this release is, like the Matangi Quartet itself, state-of-the-art.
FANFARE: William Zagorski
Works on This Recording
Quartet for Strings no 2 by Karl Jenkins
Matangi String Quartet
Period: 20th Century
Caixa de Dolços by Chiel Meijering
Matangi String Quartet
Period: 20th Century
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