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Brooklyn Rider with Beethoven and their own four-way creation

06.01.12
Brooklyn Rider
Gramophone (UK)

By Donald Rosenberg

Brooklyn Rider is a string quartet on a mission. The New York ensemble explores the newest ideas in the genre while also acknowledging history. Even the group’s name has a significant meaning, referring to Der Blaue Reiter (‘The Blue Rider’), an artistic collective in pre-First World War Munich that included audacious figures from many artistic disciplines.

On its newest recording, ‘Seven Steps’, the intrepid Brooklyn musicians show their versatility in music of myriad sonic stripes. Their own collective composition, which gives the disc its name, comprises seven sections abounding in colourful material and varied styles. Hints of jazz are woven into fabric of explosive and tranquil appeal.

The group delves into more layered sonorities in Christopoher Tignor’s Together into this Unknowable Night, a tone-poem that adds drums and electronics (including an AM radio) to the narritive mix. The interactions are memorising, with all sorts of sustained gestures shaded by deft punctuations and subtle effects.

These 21st-century creations lead to one of the foundations of 19th-century repertoire, Beethoven’s String Quartet in C sharp minor, Op 131. The performance eschews any suggestion of Romantic excess, instead making its points through artistry of lean and vibrant persuasion. It would have been even more involving without certain distractions, especially the first violin’s tendency to slide slowly between notes at too many points. Such mannerisms aside, Brooklyn Rider bring to the score the same spirit of freshness and adventure that audiences of Beethoven’s time must have experienced.