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Rotterdam String Quartets

Klaas de Vries (*1944) Strijkkwartet nr. 1
Bart de Kemp (1959-2005) Ciaccona
Oscar van Dillen (*1958) Strijkkwartet nr. 1
Astrid Kruisselbrink (*1972) Strijkkwartet
Edward Top (*1972) Strijkkwartet nr. 1
Hans Koolmees (*1959) Rozen voor strijkkwartet, slagwerk en sopraan

Doelen String Quartet

Etcetera KTC 1339

Does a Rotterdam School of composers exist, we are asked rhetorically? The suggested answer is a yes, with diverse composers united by common interests in literature and visual arts from which their works often seek inspiration.

Whatever, this is an altogether excellent CD in quality of music which combines imaginativeness with accessibility, without paying any court to simplicities or backward looking. They are mostly of mature generations. De Vries has a basic F minor chord subjected to radical transformations; one movement dreamy, the other featuring playing 'as loud as possible'. De Kemp goes for complexity with clarity, with Beethoven a recognisable influence alongside responsiveness to all the musics that pervade our 'rich and inspiring musical period. Van Dillen too joins various styles of music whilst exploring boundaries of silence and 'the spatial essence of sound'. Astrid Kruisselbrink draws from Edvard Munk, and Edward Top let Bosch's monsters 'crawl out of his pencil' onto music staves without any prior conceptions. The final short work adds soprano, percussion and tape, treatng a poem and the work of a visual artist.

We enjoyed them all greatly and it is saddening to realise that chances of hearing these striking composers in UK are remote; if this music would scare our concert promoters, surely these quartets could be broadcast by Radio 3 at the very least?

Recording is superlative, as is the whole production (no linguistic problems with the Nederlands!). An excellent b & w image from the photo-shoot below is memorable, as is the cover design with colourful Containers in Rotterdam Harbour.

It has to be subjective*, but I found myself unable to enthuse about Theo Verbey's one-composer disc [Etcetera KTC 1344]; he is driven by a technique to allocate timings and rhythmic proportions with fractal mathematics in a Fractal Symphony and concertos for piano and clarinet (the latter is accompanied by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra) 'to guarantee the unity of the result'. The cover image is of Fractal Broccoli !

Peter Grahame Woolf

P.S. subjectivity indeed!

I have this morning come across another Verbey portrait CD [Donemus CV 66] in my (large) collection of CDs from the Low Countries, and reminded myself that I'd liked it a lot !

As the notes writer puts it: "Composing like an architect - - it is naturally elegant and lyrical and does not betray for one moment that it is based on 'fractals' ". The Donemus catalogue is well worth exploring. PGW