Thursday, September 1, 2022

21st century string quartet

I was awake and I had the time and curiosity, so I listened through the videorecordings of Monday's and Tuesday's Banff International String Quartet Competition's performances of the required 21st-century quartet of the performers' choice. I can't say I was much impressed. All but two of these composers were new to me, and none inspired me to want to hear more of that.

There were eight composers because two of the nine groups chose the same piece. The composers were: Vivian Fung and Kevin Lau (Canadian, and way to suck up to the judges, guys), Pascal Dusapin and Corentin Apparailly (French), Billy Childs and Derek Bermel (American), Andrea Tarrodi (Swedish), and Prach Boondiskulchok (Thai-British). So far as I can tell, two of the eight are women.

All the pieces emcompassed a great variety of styles. There were always sections that were grossly dissonant or turbulent, and there was usually a section, often brief, that really caught the ear - often an unusual ostinato (ostinato in harmonics, ostinato in tremolo) under a completely forgettable chromatic melodic line. Often there'd be a section reminiscent of older music, though never minimalism: Webernian modernism, Shostakovichian bleakness.

Though this was a selection of music of great variety, the pieces showed just as much variety within themselves as they did against each other. As a result, the whole collection sounded rather alike. I'd like a better selection next time.

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