Reviews Sounds of America in the second movement, “Shadows”, yet Cedille’s warm, closely detailed sound ultimately takes top honours. Corigliano’s articulate, informative and refreshingly personable booklet-notes add further value to this most desirable release. Jed Distler
J Friedman J Friedman String Quartets – No 2; No 3. Matmos Remixes – No 1 (A Bruit Secret Mix); No 2 (Floor Plan Mix) Chiara Quartet (Rebecca Fischer, Julie Yoon vns Jonah Sirota va Gregory Beaver vc) with Matmos (Drew Daniel, Martin Schmidt) New Amsterdam Records M NWAM030 (64’ • DDD) String quartets as ‘diary entries’, illuminated by re lective remixes
Both in concept and content, this CD of American composer Jefferson Friedman’s music breathes fresh new life into the string quartet genre by implicitly suggesting that mainstream classical music benefits from post-performance processing, in this case by Baltimore-based experimental electronic duo Matmos. But it is first and foremost Friedman’s arresting quartets – which the composer describes as “diary entries” encompassing events such as the birth of leader Rebecca Fischer’s first daughter or the engagement of violinist Julie Yoon and cellist Gregory Beaver – that take centre stage.
Both quartets are unabashedly tonal with a bewildering array of influences, ranging from Bernard Herrmann (the chase music from On Dangerous Ground) to the “thanksgiving” strains of Beethoven’s late quartets, that could have seemed derivative but come alive as organic components of Friedman’s masterful language. And while there is some emotional seething going on at times, the composer’s command of quartet materials leads to new textures, gatherings of immense power and frequent moments of ethereal beauty.
Using the quartet recordings as source material, Matmos (who frequently collaborate with other artists including Björk and So Percussion), worked at the INA/GRM studios at Radio France to produce compact, one-movement digests of the three-movement quartets. Pulse is added while melodic fragments and rhythmic tags are detached from Friedman’s originals to create movement and reflection.
The quartet recordings themselves, which were engineered by Judith Sherman at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music in Houston, have the body, clarity and detail at www.gramophone.co.uk lanets z z
WITH COLOUR Holst as he is played in Toronto
Spacious pacing: Oundjian and the
Holst The Planets, Op 32 Elmer Iseler Singers; Amadeus Choir; Toronto Symphony Orchestra / Peter Oundjian TSO Live B TSO1208 (51’ • DDD) B
Gustav Holst’s The Planets has been a popular item in the concert hall and recording studio since its 1918 premiere. The composer’s own recordings (acoustic in 1925; electric in 1926) paved the way for more than six dozen commercial versions, including this new release of a live performance by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under music director Peter Oundjian.
The Toronto Symphony are no strangers to the astrological delights of Holst’s suite. They made a recording of four movements with Sir Ernest MacMillan in 1942 (available on Analekta) and a complete performance (for EMI) in 1986 under Andrew Davis, then the orchestra’s music director. The newest account is an in-house release that shows the TSO to be in excellent shape under Oundjian.
He doesn’t bring to The Planets the dramatic thrust and sonic depth that some conductors hear in this score. Instead, he emphasises felicities of colour, texture and mood that Holst so carefully delineates. The soft passages have a silvery shimmer (listen to how magically the women of the Elmer Iseler Singers and the Amadeus Choir fade away in “Neptune”). The more bombastic episodes are firmly dispatched, without any tonal harshness to distract from Holst’s intended grandeur and jubilation. What also puts this Planets into distinct perspective is Oundjian’s judicious sense of pacing, which is often more spacious than usually encountered. The broad tempi pay especially fine dividends in the majestic hymn that pops up in the middle of “Jupiter”, while Oundjian isn’t afraid to set the orchestra racing through space when Holst is in his most unbuttoned frame of mind. Donald Rosenberg
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GRAMOPHONE OCTOBER 2011 XI