Volume 110 Number 1309
R E V I EW
Koppel: Quartet No.1
Steinke:Native American Notes
Britten: Quartet no.1
Classico CLASSCD 251
Danish composer Anders Koppel is perhaps best known for his film music. His Quartet No.1, composed in 1997 and given its world premiere recording here, bears out these preoccupations in its swathes of dramatic chromaticism interrupted by bursts of tonality. Although his unvaried repetition of certain obvious motifs does become clumsy, the work is compelling for its drive and momentum. Koppel conjures up many interesting textures, such as the thick chordal wash over the cellos discordant pizzicato tread in the final Allegro
con brio. The Coolidge Quartet, which formed in Poland in 1996 and is now in residence at the University of Maryland College Park, plays with crisp precision and a dark-hued, velvet tone colour well suited to Koppels tense harmonic language.
Greg A. Steinke takes a more ambitious approach in his Native American Notes of 1990, also recorded for the first time. Texts by Native American Kos Naahaabii are recited between its movements, their potent images of nature inspiring Steinkes music. The resulting work is powerful and appealing, its overtly colouristic language and static feel giving the impression that one is looking at a fixed object through changing perspectives. The Coolidge Quartet gets to the heart of this intriguing work, tackling its elements of improvisation with finesse.
The delicacy and warmth of Brittens Quartet No.1 is intensified in juxtaposition with these recent works. The players give an expansive and eminently expressive reading, violinist Hasse Borup and cellist Amy Leungs soaring, soloistic moments in the third movement being particularly noteworthy.