Leonardo Quartett

Konrad Boehmer/Franco Evangelisti/Willem Breuker/Hanns Eisler

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The renowned Leonardo Quartett takes on four more difficult works that are as seemingly unrelated as any four compositions can be. There are only two motivations possible when approaching music widely varied: one is that you record a program like this one as a way of showing your diverse and precise technical skills to everybody, and the other is that you try to find the secret threads that might possibly connect them to one another on a plane deeper than composition. The latter is the case here as the Leonardos have discovered the physical connection of each composer to the other -- with Boehmer as the centerpiece -- and their motivations in composing for string quartet, all of them having to do with "having been cast out." As for the individual works themselves, first we have Boehmer's pretentious piece of serial doggerel "Et in Arcadia Ego," from 1991/1992. For a composer to be so stuck in serial music so late in the 20th century would be laughable were not so egotistically blind and therefore boring as all get out. Boehmer's "Cologne School" of serial and electronic music research should be renamed the "Dinosaur School." Franco Evangelisti's three versions of "Aleotorio" totaling only three minutes and fifteen seconds, are truly beautiful meditations on the open forms he has sought for so long. They are active, and full of imagination with all four members engaged in an improvisational -- to a degree -- counterpoint. Likewise, Willem Breuker's "String Quartet of the Week" is mostly composed according to traditional methods, with four short movements, loosely arranged by tonalities and schematics rather by ideas of tempo and sonority. Finally, Eisler's "String Quartet (In Two Variations)" from 1938 reveals the root and symbol of all the exploration -- for better or worse -- on this disc. Eisler's use of music to highlight his political and social ideas was one of the reasons he was "cast out" and his music remained banned in the West for so long. Though not terribly subversive as music, his string quartet showcases the classical traditions from the romantic era as both compositional and capitalistic conceits, mirroring difficult harmonic and rhythmic ideas against elements from popular song and dance, is both hysterically funny and shocking even now. He draws sharp lines from within not to contain these contrasts from each other but to draw attention to the absurdities he found in the classical tradition. His work in both variations proved prophetic and predicted the confusion and doom of music that had to be played in a concert hall or museum to be appreciated. This disc may not be everybody's cup of tea, but for those who don't mind traveling from one end of the aesthetic scale to the other, there is both wisdom and joy imparted to the discerning listener by the Leonardo Quartett.

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