, April 2012
Don’t let the clunky title or the awkward cover photo put you off: this is a fabulous disc. Its virtues are manifold: the bold programming of one of Beethoven’s Razumovsky quartets with a 1998 work inspired by the Beethoven and written by Aaron Jay Kernis, the verve and energy of the Jasper Quartet, and the demonstration quality of the Sono Luminus sound. This is an urgent purchase for chamber music lovers.
…Beethoven’s quartet in C, Op 59 No 3…is a fantastic performance in every respect: the four players are very much equals, and they play with a gratifying combination of tonal polish and energetic enthusiasm. There are no rough edges or lapses in interpretive prowess. I will readily believe their claim to have banded together for the sake of this work, because if there is any word to describe the Jaspers’ playing in the outer movements, it is to say that they are reveling in it. The poignant andante contains no reveling, but there is no less heart.
Aaron Jay Kernis’ second quartet, “musica instrumentalis,” has but one major weakness, which is a predilection for goofy movement titles, heralded by Kernis’ uncapitalized name for the work. The first movement is a lengthy “Overture” which sometimes recalls the Beethoven in tone—vigorous, bustling activity with occasional optimistic, even sweet interludes. The second movement comprises two sarabandes, oases of calm, coupled with rather gratuitously gnarly, hostile transitional passages. They’re worth it for the absolute peace we feel at passages like those which begin around 4:00 and 8:00, and for the ultimate sense of a really important emotional journey.
It’s all capped quite satisfyingly by the finale, the best movement despite its clumsy title: “Double Triple Gigue Fugue.” I’m not sure I am really prepared to believe this, but my ears need no study of the score to confirm that the movement is a winner. It’s highly sophisticated…more conventionally tuneful than the others.
…generally good and often extraordinary music. It gets better as it goes along, bold in tone, confident in sound, and absolutely convincing in its emotional structure. It is delivered with great power by the Jasper players.
So this album has something for everyone, with exceptionally well-played Beethoven and a contemporary sharing in the Beethovenian spirit, by turns knotty and thrilling. This playing is absolutely first-rate. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review