BUCH String Quartets: From the River Flow the Stars
A cursory glance at the titles of these string quartets – all part of larger compositional series – might suggest a composer of Segerstamic sensitivities. That is not the case with Brian Buch (b1984), his titles reflecting, rather, his music’s diverse sources of inspiration. Thus, as might be inferred from a title Takemitsu could have chosen (but without a number), From the River Flow the Stars No 6 derives from a poem of Kokin Wakashū (aka Kokinshū). This neatly constructed and appealing triptych, slow-slower-fast, catches the air of the poem very nicely.
There is a good deal of somewhat knottier writing in the other quartets featured here, not least Acanthus Leaves No 6 and Life and Opinions No 7 – the latter containing the tersest writing on offer – both of which derive from ETA Hoffmann’s novel The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr. I cannot help feeling that Hoffmann would not have recognised Murr’s ‘wonderful and ineffable thoughts’ from Buch’s interpretations of them, but it must be said that in abstract they make ineffable musical sense and are virtuosically rendered here by the Daedalus Quartet. Likewise in Landscape No 1, a triptych inspired by Čiurlionis’s paintings – not music.
It is ironic that the shortest work here – the only one under 10 minutes’ duration – is Maze of Infinite Forms No 1. A diptych of slow movements, the first edgy, the second only intermittently so, its inspiration derives from Tagore’s poems, the resulting ‘maze of thematic material … providing a cohesive story of ever-changing direction’. I am not convinced; the music sounds rather aimless, as if lost in its own, quite finite, maze.