RYOJI IKEDA – Two String Quartets

Japanese Contemporary composer Ryoji Ikeda [born 1966] has written two string quartets. In terms of compositions, he is known primarily for his electronic works. Apparently the CD liner notes pronounce that “no electronic sounds have been used on this recording”. That may be true, but modern recording techniques have given Ikeda the capability of making his writing for string quartet sometimes sounding synthesised. But I am prepared to take him on his word.

His Opus 2 for String Quartet begins with a sustained chord, as different instruments occasionally play a different tone, leading to a slight sense of melody. I should point out that the music is almost inaudible at this point but by riding the volume, I can detect the subtle nuances of the mood. I wouldn’t like to pigeonhole the composer but early indications leave me with the feeling of Morton Feldman’s work. This music doesn’t allow me to remember that which I have already heard, it is so subtle. All instruments have something melodic to say but nothing seems to project in this placid sound environment. Now a violin plays a two note phrase, which is the first time that this has occurred, approximately eight minutes in. The work meanders ever so gently, with some individual notes being more prominent than others. I can tell by the graphic display on my media player that there is not much volume here, and I have already adjusted the level using a sound file editor. I would have to say that there is no progression to be heard – it is almost pure stasis. However, it does have a meditative charm that I find enlightening. It ends abruptly.

Opus 3 for String Quartet also opens with a sustained mood but a violin expresses a sparse melody and there is a sense of harmony not found in the previous work. The violin resides in its low register and is quite alluring, with its interspersions remarkably satisfying. Sometimes it reaches out in a lamenting manner. Neither of these pieces sound as synthesised as I first thought, the solo violin is particularly resonant. Again, the conclusion is surprisingly subtle.

There is another piece on the CD, Opus 1, in four movements. It comes in two versions, one for string trio and one for string nonet. The nonet, in particular, is much more dynamic than anything else on the CD. The two versions bookend the two discussed works.

As I reviewed the CD from Spotify, I haven’t been able to garner much information, not even the performers. The music was composed from 2001-2002.

The review CD, titled op., is on the Touch label and is available on Amazon US and sometimes Amazon UK.

As stated the disc is on Spotify and can be heard on earsense and YouTube.

Listenability: Not much happens here but I found the introspective mood to be quite satisfying.


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