Arditti Quartet

Toshio Hosokawa: Silent Flowers - String Quartets

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The quartets of Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa presented here bring to mind a fusion of Western avant-garde textures and extended instrumental techniques with traditional Japanese aesthetics. It's an immensely absorbing combination, and his music appears to have evolved over the years in a more Japanese direction while not losing any of its innovative qualities. Consider the opening work, Blossoming, which true to its name depicts the blossoming of a flower. It sounds like a hackneyed concept, but the realization here is striking: the action unfolds over nearly 14 minutes coalescing out of silence and then a panoply of minute details. All the music uses silence in compelling ways. Possibly the highlight is the set entitled Kalligraphie (tracks 3-8), which again is straightforward in concept: it depicts the graceful brushstokes of traditional Japanese writing. But again the level of detail is striking; the work achieves an almost verbal utterance. The works on the album, though recognizably the product of the same composer, do not repeat themselves, and their engagement with traditional visual aesthetics have manifestly deepened over the 30 years during which they were composed. Needless to say, the technical requirements of this music for both the players and the engineers are formidable, and both the Arditti Quartet and the Wergo-label team are up to the task; the hair-trigger tension achieved by the Arditti players is remarkable. This is for even those who don't think they like contemporary string quartets.

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