OSVALDO COLUCCINO – Aoin and Attimo for String Quartet

Italian composer and poet, Osvaldo Coluccino [born 1963], has written two named works for string quartet.

Aoin for String Quartet was composed in 2002 and is in two movements. The first movement opens with a slightly Feldman-esque texture. The influence continues throughout the work. A sustained chord is the first thing we hear; it then changes to a different sustained chord. A cello note signals the beginning of several random notes with a dash of pizzicato, before moving back to a sustained chord. Now there is melodic movement within the chord; sometimes it is single notes, other times modification of a chord tone. A pause brings further pizzicato and quivering of bows. There is minimal music in this passage; although it is sparsity, but not stasis. Violins drift in and out. Suddenly a solo cello leads to a brief, loud passage before the music returns to its former sound. A joyless violin works its way through string sound effects, and more sustained chords, to the end.

The second movement is significantly longer than the first. Scratchy violins are heard to begin the movement. This is stasis for a time, with only intermittent tones being played by the ensemble. A buffeted cello makes for a strange sound. There are no melodies here, only fragments; but the intensity has increased. String sound effects are in abundance. I’d love to see the score! Occasionally, simple chords are formed by the sound of two instruments, and they could be any member of the quartet participating. Small crescendos are developed and now the sound has more consistency. Sustained chords return for a time, but these are interrupted by an abstract collection of various, almost random notes. Another, strong, sustained chord emerges, then, after a pause, another. This now becomes a pattern with brief sections of sustained chords alternating with pauses. The work concludes on one of these chords.

Atimo for String Quartet was composed in 2007 and is in one movement. It commences again in a Feldman-like manner, but it is definitely the composer’s own work. Sparse single notes contribute to a fragmentary mood. Slowly, you can hear the piece gathering forces and a sustained note allows the ensemble to move in a more assertive mode. It’s still quite stark, however. Sustained chords are slowly introduced, and the timbre of the instruments is a little raw at times. A low, resonant cello joins the chord, which then stops. We are now back to string sound effects and no formal melodies. Essentially, this passage defies description as it meanders through a labyrinth of assorted sounds. The cello, when it appears, is particularly prominent. A motif starts to develop, but is not sustained. Some further chords gather, in between silences, similar to the previous work. The texture of the chords is modified by the instruments playing sparse phrases. The chords are slowly increasing in content and intensity. However, it is still incredibly abstract. A sustained chord that contains melodic movement finally appears and is complemented with groans from the ensemble. The same chord gains melodic momentum as it nears the end and quietly concludes.

Is this the most avant-garde composer that I have discussed? I don’t know, but I would put him up there with the previously discussed Elliot Carter’s First Quartet (October, 2016) and Morton Feldman’s String Quartet II (May, 2016). His minimal approach is nothing like the intensity of Carter, and, although I can hear brief snippets of Feldman’s style, they are really quite different. These works have a sense of abstraction all of their own. Only by listening to them, will they reveal their secrets.

There are two other pieces on the review CD. These are Eco Immobile – for piano quartet and Talea – for violin and cello. These are both fine, introspective and abstract works in the Modern style of the quartets. The former is actually quite busy at times.

These works can be found on Osvaldo Coluccino: String Quartets at Presto, Amazon US ,and Amazon UK as a download. You can sample them on Spotify or YouTube.

Listenability: Very modern, but not noisy …

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