The reason most people are unfamiliar with the music of contemporary German composer Erhard Grosskopf is simple: this disc is the first ever release entirely dedicated to his music. And what a first-class debut it is! Performed by the superlative Arditti Quartet, the ensemble that gave the works their world premieres, this disc brings together Grosskopf's three string extant quartets. Although each is shaped in a single musical span, each is otherwise formally very different from the others. The First Quartet, from 1983, is in two parts with a pause in the center, while the Second, from 1990, is in five continuous sections: a prologue and epilogue surrounding three inner movements. The Third, from 1998, according to the composer, "consists of seven processes of time and harmony" that in practice sound something like a set of variations. Stylistically, however, the works are quite consistent: harmonically atonal, rhythmically jagged, and above all expressively extreme. Imagine a latter-day Boris Blacher or Karl Amadeus Hartmann or a Webern spun out to enormous length and you'll have some idea of what to expect. Given the evidence of the Arditti's previous recordings, the intensity of the present performances and the absence of competition, one would have to believe that these recordings are for all intents and purposes definitive. NEOS Music's digital sound is close, clear, and very vivid.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard