Borusan Quartet: Company
This is a delectable programme on paper but, when you come to listen, it can feel a little thin. An introduction to the booklet note maps out the history of the quartet post-Beethoven in which the big guns, naturally, are Bartók and Shostakovich. I can’t help thinking this offering would have been a whole lot more satisfying if one of the pieces featured were replaced one of theirs.
But which one? The Borusan Quartet underline their Turkish identity with a work by their compatriot Hasan Uçarsu, which also works well with the String Quartet No 4 by Pēteris Vasks (the language isn’t a million miles away and both composers use indigenous music as a reference point), even if the Turk doesn’t quite have the Latvian’s freshness and focus (the second movement of The Untold rambles).
Vasks’s quartet, almost half an hour in duration and the composer’s most heart-rending, is unquestionably the main course. This performance stands in contrast to that from the work’s commissioner, the Kronos Quartet, and in so doing sets out the Borusan’s stall: they play with exceptionally tight blend and are consistently rooted, knowing where they are going and heading there without histrionics. In comparison with Kronos’s performance, the quartet’s two Toccatas feel tame – stories told rather than lived through – while the fiendish final movement, 10 minutes of sustained tension in largely static music, doesn’t quite set the hairs on end despite the Borusan’s feeling for it.
So that leaves Glass’s Company, in which the Borusan’s very clean reading of the score torpedoes it – is that really all that happens in this piece? In contrast, the ensemble’s accomplished plainness of tone in Pärt’s Summa only reinforces that work’s musical value. Either way, we’re hearing a fine quartet here, and one whose idea of how to make (and make up) a record clearly has potential.