Garden of Eros: String Quartets by Louis Andriessen

Schoenberg Quartet

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Garden of Eros: String Quartets by Louis Andriessen Review

by Stephen Eddins

This disc includes all the music for string quartet written by Louis Andriessen, recorded by the Schoenberg Quartet in the years before the group dissolved in 2009. Even in the early Quartet in two movements, written when Andriessen was 18, the composer's inventiveness and quirky sense of humor peek through. It's an affable piece, entirely professional and assured, with enough individuality to be recognizably the work of a composer who has something to say and the wherewithal to say it. Garden of Eros was written in memory of the composer's brother Jurrian, who was also a composer. Andriessen writes that the piece was not only inspired by the content of the cycle of poems by the same name by 20th century Dutch poet Jan Engelman, but that the structure of the piece is derived strictly from the poetry, so that there are exactly as many beats in the music as there are syllables in the poem. In spite of that limiting constraint, the piece feels spontaneous and freely expressive, full of the distinctive marks of Andriessen's style: rhythmic drive, tonal astringency mixed with moments of great sweetness, and powerfully explosive outbursts. …miserere…, written in 2006 for this ensemble, alludes to the Allegri Miserere. It is clearly the product of a thoroughly modern sensibility, but its mood is one of chaste melancholy. The Schoenberg Quartet plays with utter conviction, technical finesse, and the highest musicality. This is the first recording of all of these works, so the CD should be of strong interest to any fan of the composer, as well as fans of the contemporary string quartet literature. The sound is immaculate, lifelike, and well-balanced.

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