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Ligeti String Quartet; Unitarian Chapel, York
When the names of composers Philip Glass and John Adams frame a programme, it is a fair bet that the music will come under the “minimalist” umbrella.
Six of the Ligeti’s seven numbers fitted the bill, which was part of Late Music’s attractive series.
It made for a challenging evening, on both sides of the podium.
Slowly changing textures require concentration that never wavers. But with youth very much on its side, this group is cut out for such music. Only two years old – babies in string quartet terms – they are already an impressive force.
Some early roughness in Glass’s Fourth Quartet (1989) quickly disappeared and the rocking, hypnotic rhythms of its central movement were especially engaging.
His Second Quartet, Company (1983), a theme and variations designed as incidental music to an eponymous Beckett poem, proved nearly as convincing.
David Lancaster’s Vertigo, inspired by part of Herrmann's score to Hitchcock’s film, turned out to be an old-fashioned rondo, its forthright viola theme recurring five times. His new Velocity contrasted a jagged motif with slow chords but rarely moved beyond them.
Steve Crowther’s single-movement First String Quartet, A Song For Salford, was packed with incident and exciting cross-rhythms, cleanly voiced here.
Nicola LeFanu’s rhapsodic Second Quartet was the exception to the minimalist rule, moving eloquently from a furious start to a serene close, via some appealing solos for viola and cello. The dancing propulsion of John Adams's Fellow Traveller made a glittering finale.