Swedish Contemporary composer Andrea Tarrodi [born 1981] has written three string quartets thus far in her comparatively short life.
The First Quartet titled Miroirs, (French for mirrors) in one movement, opens with a two-note repeated ensemble motif, which is not really an ostinato as the harmonies are constantly moving in a subtle way, making for a splendid, minimal soundscape. This space is joined by a wonderful lamenting, lyrical violin which expresses mournfully as the ever changing harmonies continue to feed it a sympathetic environment. This is a magical section.
A change in atmosphere is surprising as a quivering of violin bows leads to a totally different feeling with the violin expressing over the quivering, with occasional pizzicato cello strokes providing interest. The second violin now joins the first, but it is only brief as the opening motif returns for several iterations before the quivering resumes and the first violin again expresses freely. Added to this atmosphere can be heard distant sounding violin musings. The first violin subsides and the quivering returns, this time in a rhythmic environment as the cello offers up pulsing interjections. The quivering is the music here and is maintained, gradually building towards a measured crescendo before the ensemble fade into a new evocation of the opening mood.
This brief work is a magnificent piece of musical concision. When the music changes to the quivering, it sent a shiver down my spine. In ten minutes the composer offers up an incredibly beautiful array of sounds and sparse moods. I would say it is worth the price of the CD…
The Second Quartet is in three movements, and is marked Madárdal –allegretto. I couldn’t find any references to Madárdal – so be it. The work opens with a short questioning phrase being passed around by all players for a considerable time. I keep waiting for some development and it finally comes as a pizzicato cello moves in behind a fading violin. Other instruments offer up multiple pizzicato interjections in a scurrying passage which slowly transforms into a rhythmic motif, led by a violin, and joined by the ensemble. Interestingly, the motif consists of the first few notes of the six note opening phrase. Over this background, a violin offers up various vague melodies. Eventually, one of these melodies is the opening repeated phrase and the music changes instantly, it’s almost like a signal to the ensemble. The phrase is passed around among the players, rhythmically, leading to many different textures – the cello is particularly wonderful. Now the pulsing ceases and we have a return to rather vague instances of the opening question, which diminishes in intensity until a lone, scratchy violin tone fades away.
An adagio movement follows with spare, sustained violin lines fading in and building to a heavenly sound. The texture sometimes evokes the sound of an oboe, the violin’s tone being so pure. There is a wonderful, thoughtful stasis here, and it is so satisfying. I believe that only the two violins are present, such is the sparsity, it evokes quite a meditative state. I don’t feel that I can add any more words about this movements, except that it is absolutely transcendent. I just had to take a few deep breaths and let the wonder flow out of me before I thought about the next movement.
The finale is again an allegretto, opening with random sounds, some of which are that previously repeated motif. A pulse develops and the viola plays with the phrase, totally deconstructing it, all the while drawing the other players into the conversation. The attack is totally pizzicato now, until a pulsing violin motif leads to a rhythmic section that is still based on that questioning phrase. A complete stop leads to a sustained violin tone, over which the other violin plays wistfully in its highest register and fades to a conclusion.
If that wasn’t enough there are also three other pieces on the review CD. A Third Quartet, titled Light Scattering is quite a journey and there are two short works for one or two stringed instruments. I notice that the composer only has two CDs released, the other being a Cello Concerto, which I’ve not heard yet. However, there are several snippets of her orchestral works on SoundCloud that I really enjoyed. I’ll be keeping an eye and ear out for any further releases.
This CD, titled String Quartets Nos.1, 2 & 3 on the DB Productions label and performed by the Dahlkvist Quartet, is available on Amazon UK but on Amazon US as an MP3 download only.
Listenability: This music really drew me in with its wonderful textures and sense of space.