The Kreutzer Quartet has forged an enviable reputation as one of Europe’s most dynamic and innovative string quartets. Here they present four Australian quartets.
They are the dedicatees of numerous works, and over many years have forged creative partnerships with composers including Sir Michael Tippett, David Matthews, Michael Finnissy, Judith Weir and Hafliði Hallgrímsson.
In this recording, they present works by eminent Australian Composers, Don Banks, Nigel Butterley, Richard Meale (No. 1) and Felix Werder (No. 8).
There is a bonus track (Sequence for solo cello) available by download. You can purchase the 13 minute track from iTunes: enter "unfold sequence" in the search box.
All seven tracks are available in high definition from these sites:
Banks’ Sequence for solo cello was commissioned by the 66 Group in Cardiff, and it was first performed by George Isaac in 1967. The form of the piece is straightforward. An opening lento establishes the piece’s principle motifs. The allegro that soon follows develops these ideas. This development includes sections that are ‘ad lib’ in timing, and which begin a counterpoint between dramatic, virtuosic passagework, and slow plainchant. The second section begins by extending the plainchant idea with a series of slow, evenly timed pitches. Between each ‘Canto,’ as Banks terms them, are sections that explore a specific technique: sul ponticello; pizzicato; sul tasto; col legno. Although these sections focus on one technique, that technique is not used exclusively; for example, the movement to and from pizzicato is as important as pizzicato itself. Similarly, the opening of the piece moves around the four open strings of the instrument, but it is not limited by these four pitches. A short coda brings all the earlier ideas together.
The Kreutzer Quartet has forged an enviable reputation as one of Europe’s most dynamic and innovative string quartets. They are the dedicatees of numerous works, and over many years have forged creative partnerships with composers including Sir Michael Tippett, David Matthews, Michael Finnissy, Judith Weir and Hafliði Hallgrímsson.
“The versatile Kreutzer Quartet takes a whirl in the time machine and journeys to Australia for four string quartets composed between 1964 and ‘75. Meale and Werder receive first performances. These Banks and Butterley quartets haven’t been committed to disc since the 1980s. What looks to be a historical outing actually sounds as fresh and compelling as anything written last week. Michael Hooper’s fine notes explain the endeavor.
Banks’ 20-minute single-movement quartet reflects studies with Dallapiccola, Babbitt and Gerhard, a strongly expressive atonal sensibility that his Australian colleagues never fully appreciated. Butterley would write four quartets. These two movements take inspiration from a poem by Henry Vaughan (1621-1695), The Revival, whose first word provides the disc’s title. The music is precisely notated, but can be arrhythmic and intentionally lack vertical alignment.
Meale and Werder’s quartets are played from full score (the cover art is Meale’s blotting paper). Meale’s No. 1 is in two parts. For the second part, the players scatter to new positions turning their backs to the audience, projecting icy indifference. The contrast in atmosphere is enormous. Werder intentionally doubles the final letter in “quartett,” yet the work doesn’t feel Germanic. Tempo markings are literally cut out of Walton’s Cello Concerto and pasted here. Born in Berlin, eventually settling in Australia, Werder remained an outsider.”
— Grant Chu Covell, La Folia
- Don Banks: String Quartet Don Banks
- Movement 1
- Movement 2
- Movement 1: Variations - far away
- Movement 2
- Felix Werder: String Quartet No. 8 - Consort Music Felix Werder
- Don Banks: Sequence for solo cello [Bonus track] Don Banks
Nigel Butterley: String Quartet Nigel Butterley
Richard Meale: String Quartet No. 1 Richard Meale
Donald Oscar Banks (1923-1980), composer, was born on 25 October 1923 in South Melbourne. His father, a professional jazz musician.
Since the 1960s Butterley has produced a significant body of work, including a violin concerto, orchestral pieces, vocal and chamber works. As a pianist, Butterley has specialised in the performance of contemporary music and lesser-known works from other periods.
Richard Meale (b1932) is one of the towering figures of Australian composition. After initial music studies in piano, clarinet, harp, history and theory at the Sydney Conservatorium, Meale also studied non-Western music at UCLA, especially Japanese court music and Javanese and Balinese gamelan.
German-born Felix Werder came to be regarded as being at the forefront of the Australian musical avant-garde and, despite being told his music was too avant-garde for the public, his music was widely performed. His early twelve-tone music has now given way to a more improvisatory, collage-like style that often makes virtuosic demands on its performers.