Stephen Clarke / JACK Quartet

Horatiu Radulescu: Sonatas & String Quartets, Vol. 1

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One of the pioneers of spectral music, Romanian composer Horatiu Radulescu experimented with the raw sonorities of instruments and their overtones, and sought novel ways to use them in familiar forms. His avant-garde approach to sound production and his seemingly contradictory adherence to the traditional sonata and the string quartet -- Radulescu composed six of each -- give the music ambiguity, a mixture of scientific processes and otherworldliness. To express the nearly mystical feeling his music evokes, Radulescu frequently quoted passages drawn from Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, as in the subtitle of his Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 82, "being and non-being create each other," the Piano Sonata No. 5, Op. 106, "settle your dust, this is the primal identity," and the String Quartet No. 5, Op. 89, "before the universe was born." With this 2016 release on Mode, pianist Stephen Clarke and the JACK Quartet start a series of Radulescu's complete piano sonatas and string quartets, and this is an auspicious beginning with absorbing performances and exceptional sound. While the density of Radulescu's dissonances may be daunting, they are absolutely essential to building up his harmonic structures, to make the full spectrum audible. The physicality of Clarke's playing and the JACK's ethereal web of parts make the performances utterly convincing, so this project is clearly in the right hands. Recommended for adventurous listeners.

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