The apparent heir of Anton Webern and Béla Bartók, György Kurtág shows his influences most directly in his works for string quartet. Yet Kurtág's abandonment of the standard quartet form -- a major consideration in the music of his predecessors -- permits him to freely explore timbres and techniques and for their own sakes, in lieu of thematic development and traditional structures. The most significant works on this disc are the String Quartet, Op. 1 (1959); the 12 Microludes (1977-1978); and the Officium breve in memoriam Andreae Szervánszky (1988-1989). These three works are central to Kurtág's rather small oeuvre and reveal how concentrated and intensely expressive his music became over three decades. Listening requires close attention, for the movements do not always announce clear beginnings and endings. However, one is drawn into a heightened experience of sound, and the listener's efforts are richly rewarded. The shorter works, Aus der Ferne III (1991) and the two versions of Ligatura -- Message to Frances-Marie (1989), are enigmatic in their brevity, but characteristic of the open forms Kurtág pursues in his later "works in progress." This ECM release by the Keller Quartet is superbly recorded, and the ensemble plays with assurance and profound feeling for Kurtág's fascinating music.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|String Quartet, Op. 1|
|Hommage à Mihály András, 12 microludes for string quartet, Op. 13|