About this Recording
DCCD 9006 - ABRAHAMSEN / RUDERS: String Quartets

Hans Abrahamsen: String Quartet No.1
"10 Preludes for String Quartet", 1973.
Dedicated to the Kontra-Quartet.

In all their briefness these ten "short-stories" for string quartet contain almost all that can be desired of musical expressions within the relatively short period of 20 minutes.

Violence expressed as joy, simplicity as necessity, contrasts as form. The eruptive side of the music is not sharply segregated from the simple, harmoniously melodious side.

Each of the "short stories" point forward to the next and at the same time back to its predecessor and thus makes for a composed overall-structure.

That the last of the preludes is a straight Baroque-pastiche could be interpreted as an almost Holbergian moral where things are sorted out and loos ends tied.

Like in the fairy-tales one could say, " ...there, this was a true story".

Poul Ruders: String Quartet No.3
"Motet", 1979

Pout Ruder's Quartet No.3 "Motet" was written in 1979, commissioned by the Lerchenborg music-week of 1979 during which it was first performed by Quatuor Bernède.

This short one-movement quartet is a kind of "modernization" of the 14th century French motets, a cadeau to this weird and fantastic music whose abstract and almost deprecatory, introvert expression appears unaccountably modern and incredibly ancient at the same time.

"Motet" is a sober, cool treatise on rhythm and statics, depicted in a Gothic, cryptlike atmosphere. The almost completely non-vibrato movement is suggestive of boys' choir, monks' processions, and the piercing sound of musical glasses.

An ancient world is reborn and becomes the world of today.

Poul Ruders: String Quartet No.2
I Senza Problema
II Siciliano

Poul Ruders second string quartet was commissioned by the Carl Nielsen-Quartet and first-performed in 1980.

The work is in two movements, the first of which, "Senza Problema" (without problem) is an effervescent luminoiusly energetic scherzo with a freezing, serene trio as its central axis.

The sunny polyphony of the movement is suggestive of the diverting Italian Baroque.

The second movement, "Siciliano", is a hushed slow dance in triple meter. All of the four players play with mutes, and the music gives off the fragrance of days gone by and sweet memories, a faint glimpse through a shimmering haze.

A simple, sad viola solo closes the work, which thus softly fades into the far-off-horizon.

Hans Abrahamsen: String Quartet No.2
I Andante - Piu mosso maestoso
II Vivo, ben ritmico - Molto gesticolante e tumultuoso
III Tranquillo con delicatezza
IV Presto energico - Andante con moto - meno mosso sostenuto – Presto brillante

Hans Abrahamsens's second string quartet was written in 1981 commissioned by the Lerchenborg music-week of 1981, during which it was first-performed by the Gaudeamus-quartet.

In Hans Abrahamsen's second quartet it is the continuous alternation of soberness and drama that first catches the listener's ears: the lyrical/gestural tradition, as we know it from Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg, pitched - not against - but around the "sober barbarism" which is characteristic of rhythmic neo-classicism.

Both the first and the last movement of this quartet are emotional at many levels: sad - and still seething with life and always unpredictable in their development, it is night, twilight and white-hot light. Sparkling diamonds set off by scarlet velvet.

The two middle movements link the contrasts without cushioning: the second movement, a gruelling, stripped, rhythmical drill followed by a hushed, far-off dance in triple meter, which shifts and hesitates all the time, though. There is an ambience of the classics, glimpsed through many veils.

The second quartet is music which is fraught with danger in its ambiguous relation to tradition: the past emerges as a most relevant and living ghost.

The Beauty and the Beast as musical drama.

The Kontra-quartet is today Denmark's leading and most active string quartet with a vast repertoire of both classic and contemporary music. Of the later classics it is only natural that Bartok's singularly difficult quartets have appealed to the four players (the quartet's primo, Anton Kontra, was born in Hungary), but the recording of the Carl Nielsen string quartets is no doubt the ensemble's greatest success to date.

It is, however, the many first-performances of Danish contemporary music that contribute to making the Kontra-quartet something quite special in Danish musical life: the group has become no less than an expert-ensemble on contemporary Danish music, and has recorded works of Erling Brene, Ole Buck, Lars Heegård, Erik Højsgaard, Steen Pade, and Carl Nielsen's contemporary Rued Langgaard. The Kontra-quartet was founded in 1973.

The four players are:
1st violin
Anton Kontra, born in Hungary 1932
instrument: Antonius Stradivarius 1732.
2nd violin
Boris Samsing, born 1943
instrument: Carlo Fernando Landolfi, 1785.
Peter Fabricius, born 1943
Instrument: Jean Baptiste Ceruti, 1832.
Morten Zeuthen, born 1951
Instrument: Francesco Ruggeri, 1680.

Careau d'As
Translated into English by Inge Ruders

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