Carducci String Quartet

Philip Glass: String Quartets Nos. 1-4

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The string quartets of Philip Glass occupy a small but significant place in his catalog, for they present a sound palette that is distinct from his other ensemble works, and offer expressions that are unusually neo-Romantic for this minimalist composer. The chromatic dissonances and apparent atonality of the String Quartet No. 1 (1966) separate it from the rest of the quartets, but even in this early work, the contrapuntal lines are plainly built up from the repeated patterns that would later become the composer's calling card. The String Quartet No. 2, "Company" (1983), and the String Quartet No. 3, "Mishima" (1985), were adapted respectively from scores for a theater piece and a film, and in their modal harmonies and gentle deployment of patterns reflect the softer approach that the mature Glass adopted for much of his acoustic instrumental music. The String Quartet No. 4, "Buczak" (1989), shares much of the harmonic lushness, rocking ostinatos, and expressive warmth of the previous two quartets, but it also makes a connection to the quartet literature of the past by referring to Schubert and Dvorák. The Carducci String Quartet is not the first group to explore these works, which have been recorded previously by the Kronos Quartet for Nonesuch, and the Smith Quartet for Signum. These last two groups have also recorded the String Quartet No. 5 (1991), so they have the edge over the Carducci for completeness. But even though this CD only covers the first four quartets, it is worth hearing for its committed performances and for its lustrous sound, thanks to the clear recording in the Holy Innocents Church, Highnam, Gloucestershire.

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