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Christian Wolff

3 String Quartets

Label: New World Records

Format: CD

Genre: Compositional

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Tip! Starting with his music of the 1960s and early 1970s, with works such as For 1, 2 or 3 People (1964), the Prose Collection (1968–71), and Changing the System (1974), Christian Wolff (b. 1934) quietly re-invented chamber music. He created music in which the activities of the performers— timing, cueing, assembling and selecting materials—were foregrounded. Although to some extent these activities were always a part of classical music, Wolff opened them up for creative decision-making by the musicians themselves.

Charles Ives began to develop a different conception with (among other works) his String Quartet No. 2 (1913). It portrays four individuals who come together to have a discussion that turns into an argument (presumably over politics) and then its transcendental resolution in the mountains. With Ives and then others from the American Experimental Tradition (including John Cage), chamber music starts to become a place where differences are unleashed.

Given his exploration of the ontology of people making music together, the string quartet, laden as it is with the tradition of unity, might not at first seem to be an obvious fit to Wolff’s sensibilities. But his quartet music stems as much from Ives and Cage as from the European art music tradition. The four characters of Ives become four people playing music. In one piece he simply calls them “2 violinists, violist and cellist.” Sometimes they are asked to coordinate like a traditional quartet. But at other times (often in the same piece), they are pushed to the point of dissolution. Here we find a music that allows for the spontaneous expression of four musicians who are bound together by something more than the rule of the bar line. These are all world-premiere recordings.

Quatuor Bozzini: Clemens Merkel, Alissa Cheung, violins; Stéphanie Bozzini, viola; Isabelle Bozzini, cello

Cat. number: 80830-2
Year: 2021
Recorded: 1-4 & 8-9 Feb. 2021, at Église St-Joseph de Rivière-des-Prairies, Montréal, Québec, Canada. Total Duration: 79:53 Presented in a standard black-tray jewel case including 16-page booklet with texts in English.