Review: Meta4 – one of the most remarkable string quartets I’ve heard
By Richard Morrison
My rapture will probably modify over time. Right now, however, an hour after hearing Krishna Nagaraja’s Stringar in this Radio 3 lunchtime recital, I want to declare it the most remarkable string quartet I’ve heard by a living composer whose name is completely unknown to me.
True, part of my exhilaration for this 25-minute work was undoubtedly triggered by its performers, the Finnish quartet Meta4. Their flamboyant style of music-making – standing, swaying, sometimes even stamping – has thrilled me in the past. Now they seem to deploy even more breathtaking levels of technical and interpretive finesse.
Yet it was Amy Beach’s String Quartet that provided the most fascinating prequel to Nagaraja, because it too draws on folk material. Audaciously for the 1920s, Beach incorporates Inuit tunes into her otherwise highly chromatic, almost atonal style. The ending, with all four instruments playing ethereal chords high in their range, suggests an elegy for a dying civilization, though whether that civilization is the Inuit’s or European classicism, or both, is left open. Either way, a striking work that in Meta4’s hands sounded like a masterpiece reborn.