Sirius Quartet: Playing on the Edge
On the evidence of their playing on this fascinating disc from Navona, the Sirius Quartet are a fine, adaptable ensemble, and contemporary music specialists (judging from their back catalogue on Navona, CRI, Jazz and other labels). Curiously perhaps, the pick of the bunch are the two works with the most conventional titles. Marga Richter may be familiar to collectors for her marvellous tone poem Blackberry Vines & Winter Fruit (New World Records – nla). Her music has featured on other discs from Albany and Ravello but the Third Quartet is a fine example of her work, its three movements encapsulating depictions of utter stasis, emotional upheaval and a delightful dance-fantasy finale encompassing a waltz, tango, march and part of a fandango by Soler; and all in under 16 minutes.
Brian Field was a name new to me, but listening to his brief (14-minute) First Quartet (2003, rev 2010) makes me want to hear more. Its four very rhythmic movements are models of concision, real dialogues between the four musicians. I warmed less to Ian Erickson’s ölo, described as ‘an instalment in a five-movement work’, from which performers can pick and choose what they play. Jennifer Castellano’s Images by Paul Klee (2007 08) enters a competitive field, not least with Giselher Klebe’s orchestral rival to the opening ‘Twittering Machine’, but this student, 12-note piece approaches the paintings (the other two are ‘Dream City’ and ‘Fugue in Red’) from fresh angles, though arguably is too short to make its presence properly felt. Mari Tamaki’s sneak into the Q City is also based on a painting, of the same name by Iori Mamiya. Tamaki mirrors the artist’s concept of a ‘mind trip’ with a journey from initial dissonance to a closing, almost saccharine, harmony. Fine performances, fine sound all round.