The Pedroia String Quartet Plays Quadrants


QUADRANTS, Vol. 2 / OSTERFIELD: Khamsin. BRIDGES: This Fragmented Old Man. De SENA: String Quartet No. 1. DEUTSCH: Departure. K. PRICE: Hymnody. LAMB: Lamentations / Navona NV6184

As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, the biggest problem with the Parma-Navona labels is that their releases only have very minimal liner notes, and available only online. Apparently they think that their customers all live in the cloud, when in fact at least half of all serious music listeners, like me, prefer physical CDs.

Anyway, much of the music presented here is in the apparently cookie-cutter modern style of jagged, sharp-edged lines meant to startle and excite listeners who grew up on rock music, but this is only an overview of the surface of the music. Paul Osterfield’s Khamsin turns out to be a well-written work with excellent development of its jagged theme, and the quartet plays it very well, digging into its alternating edgy and lyrical moments to tie the structure together. The hard-driving rhythm gradually slows down to a crawl as the volume decreases as well—not to a whisper, because Osterfield scores this later section very high for the violins, in an almost “whistle” register, which helps to maintain a certain edgy quality, but it is clearly an interesting, well-written piece. Following this slow section, a busy, edgy fugue is set up.

David T. Bridges’ This Fragmented Old Man is a pizzicato piece written in mostly bitonal harmonies. It, too, has an interesting structure, moving its component parts around to form interesting musical shapes, and at less than five minutes long it does not overstay its welcome.

By contrast, I found the String Quartet No. 1 of Ferdinando De Sena to be pointlessly atonal, meaning that the music was simply ugly and was neither emotionally affecting nor intellectually compelling, but he, too, understands musical structure, though his music is over-written and goes on a bit too long (and, by the third movement, one tires of the aggressively and pointlessly bitonal nature of the music).

I did, however, very much enjoy L. Peter Deutsch’s Departure, an exceptionally fine piece that vacillates between tonality and “leaning” harmonies. It has a good form and holds one’s interest from start to finish. And, it actually goes somewhere!

Katherine Price’s Hymnody, I hate to say, sounds like archetypal “women’s music”: melodic, tonal and full of sentiment. Not my cup of tea.

Marvin Lamb’s Lamentations, the last piece, starts in a manner that almost sounds like Hymnody but quickly morphs into something quite emotional without relying on pathos or bathos. Lamb, like Osterfield, exploits the high end of the violins’ ranges, but here fuses lyricism with an intense feeling of loss and suffering. But alas, the second half hammers its lamentations on you like a sledgehammer. Take a Valium and chill, Marvin.

An interesting album, then, despite my caveats.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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