JÖRG WIDMANN (b.1973): String Quartet No. 1, Choralquartett (String Quartet No. 2), Jagdquartett (String Quartet No. 3), String Quartet No. 4, Versuch über die Fuge (String Quartet No. 5), String Quartet from the Opera “Absences”, 180 Beats per Minute for String Quartet.
Catalogue Number: 07R080
Reference: WER 7316 2
Description: Widmann's quartets are five independent works that can be seen, and performed, as as a single huge work, a meta-quartet as the composer describes it. They are very different from one another, broadly fitting the outline of a conventional quartet, with an intermezzo movement before the finale proper. The First Quartet has the character of an introduction, heterogeneous and questing in an apparent attempt to establish a coherent musical language. It begins with harsh scraping sounds and insubstantial harmonics, and develops a lively discourse, with the viola taking the lead. Slowly it progresses toward a final episode off complex polyphony in double stops, with vigorous interjections. The Second clearly has the quality of a slow movement, withdrawn and enigmatic. Subtitled Chorale Quartet, it alternates chorale-like tonal chord progressions and extended technique textures. The Third, Hunting Quartet, incorporates shouts from the players in the course of a violent scherzo which distorts and fragments classical traditions, and themes from Schumann, Mozart and Haydn is it becomes increasingly frenetic and dissonant, finally becoming exclusively noise, rhythm and wild yelling, before disintegrating. The Fourth begins with rhythmic breathing sounds, and investigates the idea of a 'walking' rhythm in the form of a kind of passacaglia-derived structure. The texture is like a ghostly palimpsest, with a very slow traditional passacaglia in 3/4 time fading in and out of the other layers of sounds. The piece is very complex, requiring rapid transitions between different types of playing or the overlaying of different techniques simultaneously, sometimes suggesting more than the actual number of instruments involved. As extraordinary a summation of the techniques thus far encountered as this piece is, the Fifth Quartet is the real finale of the cycle. This 'Attempt at a Fugue' uses a theme derived from the Große Fuge and Bach's Musical Offering, and tentatively tries to build a fugal finale, which ultimately fails. Using traditional canonic and fugal techniques, the piece introduces a soprano voce as a fifth instrumental part, attempts an episode in variation form (one part of which consists entirely of noise techniques yet remains recognizable as a member of the variation set. This magnificently challenging piece combines the formality of tradition and the freedom of the utmost modernity, concluding an experiment in defining the modern quartet in the light of its enormous heritage. By way of a bonus, the second CD includes what the composer calls 'two of the sins of my youth' from the early 1990s, a withdrawn, rather Second-Viennese movement that originally formed an episode in an opera, and its exact opposite, an exercise in motoric rhythm with constantly changing meters, whose limited thematic content is entirely tonal and which - rather incongruously in the light of the direction Widmann's music has taken since - strongly suggests an affinity with non-classical styles of music and minimalism. 2 CDs. Minguet Quartet.