Rasmussen/Sorensen String Quartets

Author: 
Arnold Whittall

Rasmussen/Sorensen String Quartets

  • Solos and Shadows
  • Surrounded by Scales
  • Alman
  • Adieu
  • Angels' Music

The Arditti Quartet's enterprising and absorbing voyage through the highways and byways of contemporary string quartet music has now taken them to Denmark, and a pair of composers who, if nothing else, are clearly attracted by alliteration within or between titles.
Karl Aage Rasmussen's titles spell out a concern with basic oppositions which in itself is hardly novel. Nor is his wish to use confrontation within the music as a way of working on audiences which, the notes tell us, ''must grasp and dissect an issue, an argument, a contradiction''. Fortunately, perhaps, this rather dogmatic attitude does not result in particularly demanding music. Solos and Shadows (1983) even seems rather casual in the way its diverse ideas come and go, though longer acquaintance might produce a stronger sense of the ideas exchanging identities, rather than merely asserting their differences. Surrounded by Scales (1985) is more convincingly proportioned, although here too the composer appears better at devising intriguing variants of his very basic oppositions (between reticence and the surrounding scalar aggressiveness) than in constructing perceptible and ramified processes of transformation.
Bent Sorensen's music is more tightly constructed than Rasmussen's, and both Alman (1984) and Adieu (1986) are more serious in tone: pervaded, one might surmise, with images of mourning and loss. Both exploit the medium with a voracious appetite for imaginative and wellintegrated special effects. Angels' Music (1988) has more warmth and expansiveness, though its material is less inherently interesting than that of the earlier works, with less potential for natural and consistent growth.
Even though it contains no masterpieces, this is a worthwhile addition to the Arditti's ongoing survey of twentieth-century quartets, and the Danish Radio recordings cover a remarkably wide dynamic range. Yet if Sorensen's Adieu had been omitted, all the music might have been contained on a single disc. Adieu is worth hearing but not, perhaps, at this price.'

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