The Ying Quartet, siblings from Illinois who formed an ensemble while studying at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, here offer a new installment in the LifeMusic series, featuring works newly commissioned from a variety of American composers. The group is effective in a variety of idioms, and the LifeMusic releases have been of consistently high quality and have introduced some composers whose names are not in general circulation. The works favored by individual listeners may be primarily a matter of taste, but one may state at least that one work here is a standout in terms of advancing a particular technique rather than simply attempting to perfect it: Sebastian Currier's Next Atlantis, a meditation on New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, and rising waters generally, breaks new ground in creating an accessible fusion of conventional instrument with prerecorded electronics. The string quartet seems to embody a human layer above the water sounds provided by the electronics, but the two layers approach each other and consistently interpenetrate. This may be the most serious of the LifeMusic releases, with the inclusion of Lowell Lieberman's String Quartet No. 3, Op. 102, dedicated to the victims of war and drawing in mood on Shostakovich's stately idiom. Pierre Jalbert's Icefield Sonnets adapt a sparse modern idiom to the age-old task of representing winter, and their evocative content is likely easily identifiable for general listeners. The biggest name among the four composers here may be Paul Moravec; his Anniversary Dances, less sectional than the concept of the piece implies, resemble more traditional sonata movements than dances, even considering the included disclaimer that the dances involved may as well be spiritual as physical. As usual with the Yings, a useful and accessible survey of some contemporary chamber music.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim