GEORGE PERLE - String Quartets Vol. 1

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GEORGE PERLE - String Quartets Vol. 1 - Molto Adagio - Daedalus Quartet - 090404939822 - Released: June 2013 - Bridge 9398

1} String Quartet No. 2 in D minor, Op. 14
2} String Quartet No. 5
3} String Quartet No. 8 'Windows of Order'
4} Molto Adagio

The four pieces recorded herein comprise Volume 1 of the Daedalus Quartet's survey of George Perle's music for string quartet. Writing of George Perle's Windows of Order: String Quartet No. 8, the British critic Malcolm MacDonald states: "What is hard to convey in words, but is plain to the ear, is the sheer wealth of Perle's inventiveness in musical shapes and sounds; his obvious delight in the quartet medium itself, and the wit and wisdom of his discourse throughout what must be ranked one of the string quartet masterpieces of the later 20th century." San Francisco Chronicle critic Joshua Kosman called Perle "one of the great unsung modernists, a writer of expressiveness and wit who has never let his idiosyncratic devotion to the 12-tone system stand in the way of lyricism or rhetorical clarity." It is Perle's masterful control and expressive depth that one is constantly reminded of while listening to the Daedalus Quartet's revelatory new recordings. {Bridge Records}

Mentioned above is the fact that the 12-tone system formed the basis of most of the music written by George Perle (1915-2009). It should be noted that Perle himself admitted that even though his work is related to the "12-tone technique", his system should be seen more as a "12-tone tonality". You can tell when listening to the chamber works found on this new recording, that Perle imprinted his own logic upon serial notation. And this highly personal logic is front and center in the String Quartet No. 2 in D minor, Op. 14 for example. Multiple motivic threads or melodic lines run through it, and if you are the type that enjoys the measurable and logical unfolding of music, and likes the mental exercise associated with keeping track and making sense of it all, Perle is your man. But as this composer evolved, and as most do, his logic gradually became more personal, opaque and complex. The String Quartet No. 8 'Windows of Order' written about 45 years later, dispenses with the "connect the dots" sequential writing and serves up music that is much more emotionally driven than intellectually dictated. It's the energy within the notes rather than the notes themselves that drives the music forward now, along with the intensity and commitment of the musicians.

As for their part, the members of the Daedalus Quartet go a long way in assuring that this somewhat "difficult" music sounds more congenial and hospitable. They bring out the music's main subjects very well and in doing so lead us down the right pathway and keep our attention focused on the score's blueprint. Otherwise, it would be easy to meander aimlessly in music like this. They project their sense of exploration at every page, and in doing so, prevent the playing from falling into the overly rehearsed trap that spoils so many otherwise good recordings. It's promising to see young ensembles making the effort to bring forth works rarely recorded or previously unheard of, or passed over by recording studios for the sake of the bottom line. Better one new recording of a Perle quartet than twelve more recordings of the same Mozart quartet I always say.

Jean-Yves Duperron - September 2013