For their debut album the Solem Quartet embrace the theme of night and day.
Heading up the line-up of contemporary composers on this concept album, we have Thomas Adès, with Solem Quartet’s new commission of Four Quarters. Commencing with Nightfall, febrile violins denote ancient stars in distant galaxies with groaning cello and viola signifying earth. In Morning Dew, plucked violin strings replicate falling dew drops gathering pace, and in Days, urgent strings crescendo before the music spills out in splendorous fashion to announce daybreak.
It takes a while to adapt to Adès’s unique soundscape but little by little his new harmonies and sounds work their magic and make absolute sense. Solem Quartet chose to space out Adès’s different movements and weave them into more traditional repertoire on the album. This was puzzling at first, but then I can see how delaying the final movement Days ensures maximum impact.
The inclusion of old repertoire on the album cooled things down and provided distance and tranquillity, particularly William Newell’s arrangement of Purcell and Ivor Gurney in Sleep.
In complete contrast, William Marsey’s Be nice to see you, surprises and mesmerises the listener. A phone warbles to Solem Quartet’s hesitant strings. Disjointed conversations pepper the piece. This was a catchy work which played in my head for days!
Aaron Parker’s (b.1991) easqela – suspended, spacious,in a dusky half light also intrigues, Parker’s music is full of mystery, and paints wide-open skies and technicolour sunsets.
Newell’s new arrangement of Kate Bush’s And Dream of Sheep was a fine way to wrap up this exciting project.
On Four Quarters contemporary composers get to shine. Highly recommended to those of you who like to explore new classical music. I hope to see Amy Tress and William Newell (violins), Stephen Upshaw (viola) and Stephanie Tress (cello) perform the album live – maybe with special light effects!