The Grammy Award-winning Pacifica Quartet performs works by three Pulitzer Prize-winning contemporary composers: Shulamit Ran, Jennifer Higdon, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. Written for the Pacifica and receiving its world-premiere recording, Ran’s Glitter, Doom, Shards, Memory — String Quartet No. 3 is a moving tribute to painter Felix Nussbaum, who perished in Auschwitz in 1944. Higdon’s Voices, dedicated to the Pacifica, evokes explosive energy, otherworldly calm, and spiritual serenity. In Zwilich’s Quintet for Alto Saxophone and String Quartet, a lusciously singing saxophone shares the spotlight with virtuosic string playing. The Pacifica, quartet in-residence at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, partner with their IU colleague, renowned classical saxophonist Otis Murphy.
This disc exemplifies many aspects of how contemporary music should be presented so it can shine: superb recording standards, expert annotation, and performances of a standard up there with the likes of the Arditti Quartet. This showcase of three Pulitzer-winning composers is utterly remarkable.