(The) Ying Quartet play LifeMusic 2
Like many enterprising ensembles, the Ying Quartet have embarked on a series of commissions. These are called “LifeMusic” and this is the second selection, with better-known composers than the first one.
The most senior figure comes first. Ned Rorem has provided a suite of seven contrasted miniatures, some consonant, some aggressive, but “Nursery Rhyme” is a pretty waltz. “An Ending” is the longest piece, slow and pensive to close an attractive assortment.
Augusta Read Thomas’s movement is eloquently impassioned and relentless – no wonder, since the score was completed shortly after 9/11. Chen Yi offers something different by drawing on the musical traditions of her own background in three pieces evoking the New Year celebrations in the Chinese-American community in Kansas City. This creates a vivid flavour in her bracingly dissonant style. Jennifer Higdon looks back to her own Southern upbringing with real affection: the second of three pieces is a reel redolent of country music.
After all this intensity William Bolcom brings a breath of fresh air with his Ghost Rags, dating from the ragtime revival around 1970, but in string quartet versions. These were not Ying Quartet commissions but, like everything else, they are given excellent performances, well recorded, too.