HANS ABRAHAMSEN (b.1952): 10 Preludes (String Quartet No. 1), String Quartets Nos. 2-4.
Catalogue Number: 11T061
Label: Winter & Winter
Reference: 910 242-2
Description: Abrahamsen has returned repeatedly to the quartet throughout his career, with two preceding and two following his self-imposed silence of the 1990s. The First (1973) is an early work - the composer was 25 - and its 10 short movements clearly chart a journey from astringent modernity toward a re-emergence of tonality and the 'new simplicity' of utterance that the composer strove for thereafter. The Second (1981) is the most 'conventional' of the four, if that term ever applies to Abrahamsen. It is in four movements in traditional layout, is largely tonal, and very recognisably derives aspects of its vocabulary from Bartók, neoclassical Stravinsky, and especially in the scherzo-like second movement, the American minimalism that everybody started noticing around that time. The slow movement has a kind of simple naïveté - not so simple really - that anticipates things to come. The Third is spare and pared-down by comparison, quiet and delicate, with simple diatonic motifs passed gently around in the imitative forms that anticipate the canonic textures that have increasingly occupied Abrahamsen in recent decades. 2012’s Fourth is the most radical, and most deceptively 'simple'; the first movement is played entirely in whispering harmonics and canonically overlapping loops, and the second adds a bubbling, folklike accompaniment to this ethereal texture, suggesting the play of light on water. The third revisits the material in lower registers and 'earthy' pizzicato timbres, and the 'babbling' open-air finale, full of lively imitation, suggests a naïve, aquarelle depiction of a pastoral, rustic scene. Arditti Quartet.