Magazine article Gramophone

Quartets from the Pioneer of New Vocal Techniques

Magazine article Gramophone

Quartets from the Pioneer of New Vocal Techniques

Article excerpt

Sciarrino

String Quartets--No 7; No 8. Sei Quartetti brevi

Prometeo Quartet

Kairos (F) 0013212KAI (46' * DDD)

Franco Donatoni, Luigi Nono, Aldo Clementi, Niccolo Castiglioni--it's difficult to think of a mid-20th-century Italian composer whose music wasn't earthed deeply in the country's various vocal and choral traditions. Salvatore Sciarrino is a generation younger than those pioneering figures but explains, in considerable detail, how his Seventh String Quartet (1999) grew out of that same pool of influences.

Sciarrino tells us how it is necessary 'to free the voice from inert imitation by instruments ; how the 'superficial pleasure of old vocal motifs 'runs contrary to actual expression , an agenda which redraws the rule book fundamentally when reapplied to instrumental music. The Seventh Quartet is a compressed nine-minute miniature that obsessively retreads the same gestural terrain, moving ahead slightly, rewinding back to where it started. The whole piece tumbles out from a simple falling glissando, a basic vocal-derived gesture that sounds at first daringly naked and raw but which is tripped soon enough into interlocking webs of notes separated by sudden silences and long held notes: a mad scene for string quartet.

Sei Quartetti brevi ('Six Short Quartets') was begun in 1967 and finally completed in 1992 after a commission from the Rovereto Philharmonic Association. It's noticeable that despite the two decade hiatus there's no great stylistic mismatch between the individual sections; Sciarrino's voice was firmly in place from the get-go. …

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