JACK Quartet

Lachenmann: Complete String Quartets

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Helmut Lachenmann has described his music as musique concrète instrumentale, and he has created an elaborate process of sound production that relies on amplified raw timbres and extended effects of instruments, rather than on other organizing principles such as melody, motivic development, or even serial techniques. Lachenmann's scores are extremely difficult to perform, and as a result of their great demands, they require musicians who are not only capable of playing rasping, scraping, and grating sonorities, but, presumably, are also willing to risk possible damage to their instruments. After hearing the enormously complex and harrowing string quartets on this Mode release, one wonders what precautions the members of the JACK Quartet took to prevent wear and tear on the instruments' strings, bodies, and bows, because the harshest sounds in Gran Torso (1972), Reigen seliger Geister (1989), and Grido (2000-2001) come across as potentially destructive. Yet this is only one aspect of Lachenmann's music, because many of his effects are extremely quiet, delicate, and ethereal, and are made audible only through the same amplification that makes the louder sounds so hard to bear. These pieces are not for the faint of heart, and only the most adventurous listeners will have patience for Lachenmann's experimental methods. But once past the initial shock of his disorienting soundworld, they may find many fascinating combinations and eerie passages to haunt their imaginations.

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