This is a second time when I am listening to KSQ music, both recordings had been cut off for Berlin based independent Traumton records label. Bern based Quartet appeared to me as highly virtuoso formation from the very first time and this latest appeal only affirm that conviction. Three years passed since and to be perfectly honest I listened to that music a lot meanwhile, so seeing that new one coming was nothing but the water for my hunger-mill.
Here we have a mix of both: compositions coming from the band members as well as other composer’s literature, for example their compatriot Nik Bartsch, one of another favourite young band-leaders. Or Mathias Ruegg, legendary founder and director of the Vienna Art Orchestra. Let’s start from those then. Modul 17 originally written for Ronin appeared at least few times on their recordings. It is very minimalist piece of music, with repetitive rhythm and very precise timing. Quartet arrangement is very lyrical, and it drags out a lot of melody from the music. Original is more mathematical in its precision. By the harmony built on strings the music gets drive from bowed chords in unison rather than Nik’s piano chops. Music sounds a little like a Different Trains (by S. Reich) performed by Kronos Quartet, to make some valid point of the reference.
Alles Walzer, as it is a case with an orchestral piece sounds much bigger and multi melodic as might be expected. The richness of the original demands from musicians even more creativity and to cover those needs the music is performed not just with the traditional Quartet expression, but also with use of voices merged with the bowed them as well as a lot of percussive effects added to the tissue. But it also draws a lot from a Balkan folk in the same time and those Rubato movements are bringing some nice colourants. The same can be said about quotes from Vivaldi and Menuhin, put into the tune with very specific sense of humour.
Another minimalist piece I enjoyed a lot is a closing Iceland. It tastes like a breeze and the sense of sort of like being hung in a fog is beautifully brushed by the bows. Illustrative nature goes further with the motoric movements between the melody lines acting little bit like choruses in the symphonic piece. In climax violin solo makes fantastic harmony with remaining three voices coming into the culmination with perfectly controlled tension and certain trace of distortion to counterpoint a purity of coming after unison.
But my absolute favourite of that recording is the one called Introspection, from the pen of violinist David Schnee. It is wonderful melody which flies over the accompaniment of the others playing gentle pizzicato in the background to join the conversation later, one by one. The tension and an emotional balance of the tune is insanely beautiful and the merge of freedom with slightly Appalachian, slightly Balkan with the classical chamber music bowing routine and romantic articulation is nothing but hypnotising you. Listening to it is like spinning around in the middle of the meadows and watching the sun through the closed eyelids.