On its new CD What Remains, the Dudok Quartet Amsterdam presents four different perceptions of the concept of time. Motoric and foggy (Roukens), religious and deadly (Machaut, Perotinus and Gesualdo), torment and war (Reich), time and timelessness (Messiaen) – behold a new shoot to this ensemble’s already richly decorated trunk.
The kick-off consists of the fourth string quartet What Remains by Amsterdam composer Joey Roukens (b. 1982), also the CD’s title piece. In Strange Oscillations, the first of two movements, the strings tickle the listener’s ears with a gentle breeze, motorically simmering like a boat, including the pulsating lower voices. Rhythmically rumbling motifs in the low registers lead into the thickly strung second movement. Glissandi form a natural caesura with a murmuring continuation that nevertheless ends suddenly in the loud plop of a pizzicato. Captivating, amusing, moving – everything is in there. Silent and misty The second movement is called Motectum and suggests that this is a polyphonic arrangement of a liturgical piece of music. According to the CD’s explanatory notes, this movement involves systematic deletion during the compositional process. The listener can then fill in that the result is a dreamy lament, underpinned by precise harmonies. Silent playing moves on soft slippers towards a slightly shaky, misty ending.
This mysticism is given relief on the CD by three short but iconic pieces from early music history: the Kyrie from the Messe de Nostre Dame by Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377), the madrigal Deh, come invan sospiro by Carlo Gesualdo (1566 – 1613) and the crystalline Viderunt Omnes by Perotinus (1200).
World War II
Steve Reich is present with Different trains for string and tape. The tape part consists of recordings by the Dudok Quartet, some human voices and sounds of locomotives. In three movements, Reich and Dudok show how World War II was experienced in the United States and Europe. The run-up to WWII in the US is Americanised, with repetitive patterns and patterning, and, on tape, station announcers and steam whistles. Modulations and tempo changes keep the listener alert. The second part is the experience of war in Europe, where trains played a role in transporting (prisoners of war) and the Holocaust. Here the tempo is slower and the speaking voices focus on reporting the systematic destruction of human life. Here, then, no steam whistles but more air alarms. The finale (After the war) consists of breezy short tunes and optimistic sounds (“the war is over!”) from professional presenters. Of all times The CD closes with the fourth movement of Messiaen’s Fête des belles eaux (1937). It was originally written for ondes-Martenot, one of first electronic musical instruments with a monotone but warm timbre. A few years later, Messiaen arranged this movement for the fifth movement (Louange à l’Éternité de Jésus) of his Quatuor pour la fin du temps. From there, it was a small step, after its own arrangement, to enter the Dudok Quartet’s repertoire. At least that didn’t hurt the interpretation. By using vibrato sparingly, the barrenness of the sonority reduced to the bone remains intact. What remains (“What Remains”) is respect and a form of humility that is of all times.
WHAT: What Remains
WHO: Dudok Quartet Amsterdam
LABEL: 2023 Rubicon Classics Ltd
INFO: rubiconclassics.com and dudokquartet.com