Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Singleton CD review The Best Contemporary Classical on Bandcamp: May 2022

Alvin Singleton

Alvin Singleton forwards this review of his new recording by the Momenta Quartet, "Four String Quartets":

This essential new recording features New York’s Momenta Quartet surveying each of Alvin Singleton’s string quartets, which span 42 years—1967 to 2019, the last of which this ensemble commissioned for its 15th anniversary. Each of these neatly contained works eschew the sort of conventional structures works for this configuration usually employ. Instead, they tell beautifully unfolding stories, like a sonic road trip past quietly evolving landscapes. The earliest piece, “String Quartet No. 1,” is unsurprisingly the most traditional-sounding entry, with elaborately detailed contrapuntal scaffolding containing elegant passages that toggle between bittersweet romanticism, knotty pizzicato, and slaloming lines of emotional ambiguity. “Secret Desire to Be Black,” commissioned by the Kronos Quartet in 1988, cycles through repeating sequences marked by subtly shifting change, building into a strident fury released by a needling violin figure and a sudden calm, slowly winding down into unexpected serenity. My favorite work is “Some We Can” from 1994—an homage to the singer Marian Anderson—which offers a thrilling rollercoaster ride of slashing high-velocity lines. A head-snapping descent into an ominous stillness heralds the return of even more thrilling locomotion, with sustained tones and lyric swells following later. Singleton’s sense of scale and proportion are remarkable. “Hallelujah Anyhow” engages in a similarly jagged, wildly dynamic experience.

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