Minguet Quartett

Jörg Widmann: Streichquartette

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For those who tend to avoid music from German modernist mainstream of Henze and Rihm, give Jörg Widmann a try. His music may have dissonant, forbidding surfaces, but it's a good deal more accessible than the work of the two aforementioned composers, with hugely dramatic and entertaining contrasts, extreme virtuosity and dynamic range, and bold gestures such as shouting players. Included here are Widmann's five numbered string quartets, one of them with voice. Each is in a single movement, and taken as a whole the group with its internal utterances has characteristics of a single utterance. There are also two unnumbered pieces for quartet, one of them with the title 180 Beats per Minute. Here and elsewhere Widmann shows the influence of electronic dance music, something his predecessors definitely wouldn't have countenanced, and it adds to the general appeal. With music that comes down to barely audible plucking, one will want first of all a label that can handle the engineering challenges, and it would be hard to do better than the German label Wergo, working in the Deutschlandfunk Chamber Music Room in Cologne. But really the credit goes to the players of the Minguet Quartet, whose members throw themselves into Widmann's tumultuous yet showy music without ever losing control of it. Recommended.

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