Avalon String Quartet
© 2015 Cedille Records/Cedille Chicago
Strings Attached – October 2015
By Terry Robbins, for The Whole Note, published on September 28, 2015
Illuminations is another fascinating CD from Cedille Records, featuring the Avalon String Quartet in works by Debussy, Britten, Osvaldo Golijov and Stacy Garrop (CDR 90000 156). There’s a lovely reading of Debussy’s String Quartet in G Minor Op.10 to start things off, followed by four quite fascinating short pieces by the young Benjamin Britten. The Three Divertimenti (a March, Waltz and Burlesque) were written in 1933 by the 19-year-old composer as part of a projected five-movement suite and are startlingly modern – the March sounds like Dag Wirén meets Bartók. Revised in 1936 under the present title, they remained unplayed during the composer’s lifetime after the initial unsuccessful performance. Alla marcia is in the same vein and from the same period and was originally planned as the opening movement for the suite.
Golijov’s evocative and effective Tenebrae from 2000 ends the CD, but the focal point is the String Quartet No.4: Illuminations, the 2011 work by the Chicago-based Garrop that gives the disc its title. It’s a charming piece that is essentially a meditation on five stunning illustrations from the 15th-century Book of Hours known as The Hours of Catherine of Cleves, now in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. Eleven short pieces depict the opening of the book, the five illuminations with two interludes, and finally the closing of the book at the end of prayer.
The Avalon Quartet has been together for 20 years now, but this is their first recording for the Cedille label. They’re in top form throughout a lovely disc.