This Aeon label release of music by French composer Pascal Dusapin borrows design elements from ECM, with artsy black-and-white photos, philosophical-sounding text strewn around, and stark, Euro title type. ECM, however, avoids a profusion of booklet text, but here you get a formidable philosophical apparatus involving "L'inépuisable" (The Inexhaustible), both Samuel Beckett and Gilles Deleuze, and the German concept of the Hinterland. Nowhere is it explained why one of the works is called a "hapax" (a word that occurs only once in a work or body of work), or even such basic questions as why the Quatuor VI is called a quartet when it is really a work for string quartet and orchestra. All this aside, the music certainly holds your attention. Dusapin was influenced by Varèse's Arcana as a youth, and these pieces have the heated quality of that work. The movements of the Quatuor VI are described as "attempts at exhaustion" ("tentatives d'épuisement"), and indeed they elaborate initial material, in a violent atmosphere, to a point of what might be called exhaustion. Perhaps the stronger of the two works is the Quatuor VII ("Open Time"), like its predecessor composed in 2009. It's a set of 21 variations for string quartet, some of them in the Varèse-like mood, but some of them sparse enough to justify the Beckett comparison. The Arditti Quartet specializes in music of this kind, and has recorded Dusapin specifically in the past; their recording surely is definitive. Aeon's studio sound, close up and intense, is just what is needed.
Pascal Dusapin: Quaturo VI "Hinterland"; Quatuor VII "Open Time" Review
by James Manheim