No one likes a bully, whether it's on a school playground, at work, or on a CD. This recording of Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, performed by the Het Collectief, has a very clear and distracting bully: clarinetist Benjamin Dieltjens. Balance is tremendously skewed easily and almost always completely eclipses the rest of the ensemble. When the clarinet is not playing, the volume level is extremely low. Other aspects of the ensemble's technical execution are more acceptable: intonation is solid (when you can hear more than one instrument playing against another) and rhythm is secure. Tempos chosen for slower movements are typically much faster than the ideal, robbing these movements of their perceived "lack of time" and impact to the listener. The album also includes Mourning the Murder of an Old Banyan Tree by Malaysian composer Kee-Yong Chong. Written in much the same vein as Messiaen, Chong has a great deal of information, emotion, and unique sonorities to offer listeners. Balance issues and volume levels will still plague listeners who will need to sit with their hands poised on the volume knobs throughout the recording. Other than the opportunity to hear Chong's work, this album is probably one to pass up.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|Quatuor pour la fin du temps, for violin, cello, clarinet & piano, I/22|