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COATES, G.: String Quartet No. 9 / Solo Violin Sonata / Lyric Suite (Kreutzer Quartet, Chadwick)

Naxos 8.559666

   La Folia, May 2012
   The Big City, December 2011
   Fono Forum, July 2011
   Pizzicato, June 2011
   MusicWeb International, May 2011
   The Wire, April 2011
   American Record Guide, March 2011, February 2011
   Fanfare, January 2011
   Record Geijutsu, January 2011
   The Strad, January 2011
   San Francisco Chronicle, December 2010
   Gramophone, December 2010
   Fanfare, December 2010, November 2010, October 2010
   Touching Extremes, October 2010
   Musical Pointers, October 2010
   Cyclic Defrost, September 2010

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Grant Chu Covell
La Folia, May 2012

Naxos’ third installment of Coates’ quartets delivers what appears to be her most recent quartet. As expected, the Ninth’s two movements slither atmospherically through microtones and glissandos, upending slow canons. The companion works retreat in time, as we see Coates’ quest for a pure style. The Piano Trio may start from Emily Dickinson poems and hover distractedly across hymns, but the detuned violin creates a haze that warms and singes. The solo violin sonata charts a course through four movements. Of course Bach dwells in the background, but Coates adds dissonance and out-of-step harmony. © 2012 La Folia

George Grella
The Big City, December 2011

The strength and centrality of Bach is so great, though, that not only does he withstand dismantling and reverse-engineering, but his lessons can be heard clearly in what might otherwise seem music from another dimension. I’m thinking here of a tremendous recent recording that I’ve been listening to often of late, the latest in the series of recordings of the unique composer Gloria Coates’ String Quartets, one of the quietly essential parts of Naxos’ American Classics series.

Coates is like Galina Ustvolskaya, in that once she found her method, she stuck with it. Known primarily as a symphonist, her use of string glissandos as her fundamental musical material comes to its full fruition in the string quartet, where the four instruments spend long stretches sliding from one note to the next, at times in parallel, at others in opposition. While this may seem like a novelty, the craft and focus of her writing are deeply serious, and within the eerie, richly disturbing sound is a great deal of clear, lyrical expression. Her most recent String Quartet No. 9 adapts this technique via canon, and while her phrase belongs more to Beethoven’s Grosse Fugue, her application is very much in the manner of Bach, especially as she develops the material in the second moveĀ­ment. Bach’s methods are even more apparent in the solo Violin Sonata, the opening Prelude rocking back and forth between moments of  Bach and Bartok solo violin ideas. She makes Bach sound new, and he gives her history. © 2011 The Big City Blog

Dirk Wieschollek
Fono Forum, July 2011


Gloria Coates has spent most of her time in Munich since the end of the 1960s, and yet she is not as well known in that country as she should be. A circumstance in which one would shake one’s head in amazement if he were to hear this fabulous recording realized by the Kreutzer Quartet, which has now recorded all nine string quartets of this American composer.

Coates’ music on the one hand is typically American in its focus on sound colors, but on the other hand, it is individually expressed in her unusual and strange mixing of melodic and sonic elements. The expressive concentration of her ‘sound gestures’ (which Coates shares with Galina Ustwolskaja or Arvet Terterian,) could not be more convincingly expressed than in the electrifying first performance of her ‘String Quartet No. 9’ (2007). Here, two vehicles of expression move her music into the spotlight: microtonal harmonies (two stringed instruments are retuned) and extended fields of glissandi. Her glissandi do not sound trite or worn out; for example, the ‘Moderato’ movement is charged with pure energy. This already is an art in itself. What is fascinating about this canon of ‘sound textures’ is the friction created between the micro-intervals and the tonal elements. This also gives Coates’ music its own poetic individuality.

In both the violin sonata (2000) and in the piano trio (1996) the quarter tone shifting of harmonic relationships and various correlations of sound material lend a true excitement and charm to the entire compositions. A hybrid “simplicity” which has great consequent results and intensity when its intended design can be carried out—above all, when it is interpreted with such courage and heart as here.

(translated by Emanuela Schwankl)

Remy Franck
Pizzicato, June 2011

“String Quartet No. 9” by Gloria Coates, the American composer living in Germany, has been released by Naxos which has already recorded her first eight string quartets. Dark and mysterious, almost surreal sounding, this two movement work is given a gripping performance by the Kreutzer Quartet. Micro-intervals and glissandi belong to Gloria Coates’ image. In this quartet they abound in rich contrasts of light and dark tone colors and evolve into an unsettling, almost threatening cosmos of sound.

The hellishly difficult violin sonata that requires imagination by the performer is grandly interpreted by Peter Sheppard Skaerved, the first violinist of the Kreutzer Quartet. A wonderfully lyrical ‘Berceuse’ is the high point in the Sonata’s third movement.

The ‘Lyric Suite for piano trio’ (1996) refers to the poet Emily Dickinson of whose poem ‘Split the Lark - and you’ll find the Music’ serves as the subtitle. The titles of the individual movements are from Dickinson as well. Although there are completely lyrical moments in this piece, there are also many mysterious, otherworldly musical passages creating a nightmare-like music of great intensity. This is a highly original work, and one is fascinated by the deeply profound interpretation of the Kreutzer Quartet, in which the pianist Rodrick Chadwick elicits great and wonderful sounds on the piano. Particularly excellent is the very spacial (or should one say: space of the universe ) sound and scaled recording.

(translated by Emanuela Schwankl)

MusicWeb International, May 2011

Previous reviewers have highlighted the challenges to the unsuspecting listener of Coates’s music, and it is fair to say that it has not suddenly metamorphosed into anything like a diatonic idiom for this release. In other words, anyone looking for ‘great tunes’, ‘easy listening’ or ‘dinner party music’ should evacuate now!

But for those interested in powerful, original experimentation in music—not just sound—that, for all its initial outlandishness, still looks back to Beethoven, Bach and indeed beyond, the works of Gloria Coates are indispensable. As Kreutzer violinist Peter Sheppard Skærved says in his note on Coates’s music: “Once the floodgates are open, its extraordinary beauty is irresistible.”

Many will doubtless take a lot of convincing, and much time and concentration are required to fully appreciate the complexity, intensity and profundity of Coates’s music. But this disc is perhaps one of the best places to start, with both the Sonata for Solo Violin and the Lyric Suite among Coates’s most approachable chamber works.

The intrepid new listener should begin not with the String Quartet, but with the Sonata for Solo Violin, in which the presence of Johann Sebastian Bach, whom Coates has previously cited as her greatest influence, is readily discernible, particularly in the first and third movements. Despite a few unusual sound effects, this is attractive, lyrical writing.

The seven-movement Lyric Suite for piano trio is another fairly accessible work, at least as far as that can be said of Coates’s music at all. There is not much here that, say, Charles Ives, or certainly Henry Cowell, would not recognise—right down to the idea of asking the pianist to play both the outside and inside of the piano!

There are other peculiar sound effects, including slightly out-of-tune strings giving both a ‘warped LP’ effect, and a kind of ghostly, out-of-synch echo feel to some of the movements. The piano often plays very simple tonic triads, and indeed the music is slow-paced and uncluttered, momentarily reminiscent of atmospheric minimalism for an arthouse film. Despite the continual dissonance, the overall effect is strikingly memorable and, yes, lyrical. The work’s subtitle, ‘Split the Lark—and You’ll Find the Music”, some may recognise as the title of a poem by Emily Dickinson, and each of the seven two- to four-minute sections is named after a phrase from the poem.

The String Quartet No. 9, in its world première recording, is at another remove—more likely to recall Penderecki’s string music than anything American. It is altogether more arcane, with further unusual instrumental effects, including tappings and rapid high-pitched pizzicati and tremolos, although the opening bars and at least some of the subsequent material and structure would be recognisable to Shostakovich.

The first violin and viola have been flattened by a quarter of a tone, creating a spectral effect of ever-present foreboding. Almost throughout there is a simple, repeated folk-like melody, but about six minutes in all four instruments begin a trademark, and breathtaking, glissando spanning several octaves, the violins descending, the cello and viola ascending—before all reversing their glissandi until they arrive back where they started, more than four minutes later! The second movement is much more prickly, having a less apparent structure and even more dissonance; finding Bach in this section is a daunting task. Nevertheless, as with her previous quartets, Coates has created a soundworld of startling, stimulating intensity of colour and texture.

The Kreutzer Quartet, Roderick Chadwick on piano and Peter Sheppard Skærved on solo violin, give convincing performances of this often very challenging music. Sound quality is very good, especially considering that these are live recordings—there is no hint of audience intrusion. A minor grievance is that all three CDs of Coates’s string quartets have now been under an hour in length—perhaps Naxos think it beyond mortal capacity to listen any longer? Insightful booklets notes on Coates’s music are written as in previous releases by Kyle Gann, who clearly appreciates the significance of Gloria Coates’s music. As with previous discs of her music, Naxos have included a print-in-miniature on the front page of another of her expressionist paintings, providing a glimpse of another aspect of Coates’s artistry.

Coates is one of the most important and prolific female composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Naxos deserve plaudits for having the courage to bring her music to the attention of a wider public…

Philip Clark
The Wire, April 2011

Coates, the Munich based expat American who has done for the glissando what Mondrian did for the coloured-in square, returns with a disc of recent chamber works. Her String Quartet No 9 (2007) opens with a nakedly idiomatic cello line—her Old School lyricism is worrying at first—that peaks with a drama-heavy tremolo. But picked up by the rest of the group, then thrust to the outer limits of the string quartet register, that tremolo is transformed from hackneyed expressive hook to a reclaimed sound source as the musicians scoop the string quartet out from the inside by tapping obsessive-compulsive rhythms against the wood of their instruments. And with her trademark glissandos, Coates similarly upends our expectations of pitch and harmony, pulling the rug away from notes trying to clash or resolve. Coates often cites Emily Dickinson as an inspiration, and her Lyric Suite For Piano Trio (1996) is grounded in the inflections of Dickinson’s language, particularly her peculiarly improvisational commas and dashes—exactly the sort of reverberating, broken—up space…making space—through which, feral sounds might,—slide... © 2011 The Wire

Allen Gimbel
American Record Guide, March 2011

Gloria Coates’s first eight quartets can be had on two Naxos releases (559091, J/A 2002; 559152, M/J 2004), both with this group. I asked at the close of the 2004 review whether or not there were more quartets to come. I guess the answer is “yes”. The two-movement, 26-minute Quartet 9 was written in 2007. The first movement opens with an expressive chromatic line in the cello becoming a subject for Coates’s trademark canons, accompanied by her typically disturbing interferences. The chromatic language becomes pentatonic, embellished by microtones; and then later another Coates trademark—glissandos—takes over. The previous material repeats backwards. II comes across as a grim tombeau of some kind. Sick glissandos and choked fragments in fuzzy microtones create an atmosphere of abysmal darkness, a mournful song of living death.

A Solo Violin Sonata (2000) follows, played by Kreutzer first violinist and Royal Academy of Music Research Fellow Peter Sheppard Skærved, who offers a brief “Personal View” of Ms Coates in the booklet. This piece is about as “neoclassical” as this composer gets. Its four movements approximate a standard solo violin sonata in texture and intent. The opening Prelude’s dramatic triple and quadruple stops remind me of Bach; the improvisational Fantasia ends with Coates’s ubiquitous glissandos; an uncharacteristically gentle Berceuse is nearly tonal and vaguely English; and the strangely named, uncharacteristically slow Hornpipe has a plucked D pedal point.

The earlier Lyric Suite for piano trio (1996) has more to do with Emily Dickinson, Charles Ives, and Henry Cowell than Alban Berg. The piece’s subtitle, ‘Split the Lark—and you’ll find the Music’, is the title of a Dickinson poem, as are the titles of all seven movements. The lyricism has to do with folk-like melodies in the strings and simple chorale-like textures in the piano—only those melodies are played in “almost-octaves” with the instruments tuned a quarter tone apart, turning what is on the surface simple homespun Americana into an earsplitting nightmare. In one movement a tune is heard over a turgid, dissonant ostinato, other times amidst clusters and strumming on the piano strings. Sometimes the music is just mysterious in an intense, searingly passionate mode. It’s unlikely you’ve ever heard anything like it, unless you know other Gloria Coates, and even for her this piece is pretty unusual.

If originality at all costs is what you are looking for, this is for you. I will say the outer pieces on this program are among the most haunting Coates works I’ve heard and make as good an introduction to her music as any I know, especially at the Naxos bargain price.

Olivia McCarthy, February 2011

The prolific composer Gloria Coates’ 9th quartet is haunting and brilliant. So rich and vivid texturally, it cannot merely be characterised by a repertoire of techniques or influences, and analysed accordingly; crucially, her style is deeply individual and intuitive as well. This composition seems to flow analogously to a densely absorbing painting, and flood the psyche in a rich palette of colours and tones: glissandos and micro-tonalities are introduced via a mirror canon and the powerful glissando canon in the middle of the piece is deeply evocative and powerful.

As a small child, she was constantly singing and experimenting with sound, and was fascinated by strings, perceiving them as an extension of the human voice.

‘Music on Open Strings’ (1973) was premiered at the Warsaw Autumn Festival to international acclaim, and served as an inspirational template for many later compositions.

Her music, its spellbinding tone clusters and glissandos, are a true revelation to be experienced and felt, rather like the poem of Emily Dickinson’s that inspired the Lyric Suite for Piano Trio, of the same album. I was totally immersed by the music, and the impulse to analytically dissect and characterise its brilliance was merely secondary to its searing sensitivity and overall impact.

Raymond Tuttle
Fanfare, January 2011

Coates's music, this CD included, forces one to consider why we listen to music at all, and to examine what we mean by “entertainment.” To my thinking, entertainment, in the usual sense of the word, is overrated. We need to devote equal time and effort to moving ourselves into new emotional and intellectual territories, even at the risk of causing ourselves a little pain.

Coates is an American who now lives in Germany. In an interview with the composer, she describes the German culture as “very serious and formal,” and comments, “One is left alone much of the time unless he plans ahead.” Is there anyone in the United States who is writing music quite like Coates's? Not that I am aware of. Her music says difficult things—things Americans seem unwilling to say at this point in time.

This is the world premiere recording of her recent (2007) String Quartet No. 9. The work is in two movements, both of them slow, and both of them making an almost obsessively detailed exploration of texture and sound per se. The first is a canon and nearly a palindrome, although the materials thus treated are not only melodic but also textural. The long, siren-like glissando, a trademark of Coates's music from the start of her career, appears six minutes in and produces a literally unsettling effect. The listener also is thrown off kilter by pitch, because the first violin and the viola are tuned down one quarter-tone. Glissandos occur in the second movement, albeit within a narrower range; imagine listening to the slow movement of a late Beethoven quartet on a turntable whose motor is giving out and from an LP that has been pressed off-center. As Kyle Gann writes in his booklet notes, “The atmosphere is unworldly, creepily dissonant and yet serene, a kind of music of the spheres.”

The Sonata for Violin Solo (2000) allows aspects of Coates's compositional style to stand out in stark relief. The movement titles—Prelude, Fantasia, Berceuse, and Hornpipe—suggest Handel or Bach, or at any rate more “traditional” composers, but once again, Coates goes her own fascinating way.

One might think that Emily Dickinson would elicit a brighter response from any composer. All of the Lyric Suite's (1996) seven movements are headed by a fragment from Dickinson's poetry. The “Belle of Amherst” was a mystic and a visionary, though, and Coates's music underscores the notion that much of Dickinson's work was actually quite strange, considering the time and place in which she lived. Once again, unusual playing techniques, including strings tuned a quarter-tone flat, create a sound-world that is eerily beautiful and queasy.

For Coates newbies, any of the discs featuring her orchestral works might be a slightly easier introduction. Nevertheless, I feel that the present CD is an honest representation of who she is and what she does.

The Kreutzer Quartet has participated in earlier Coates recordings, and the quartet's first violinist, Peter Sheppard Skærved, has championed Coates for her music for two decades. (Neil Heyde is the quartet's cellist.) It is hard to know what to say about the performances, except that there would be little point in performing and recording this music if one didn't believe in it. Separately and together, the quartet's members, plus pianist Chadwick, are committed to the task, and carry it out with deep concentration.

As usual, the cover art is a painting by Gloria Coates, whose visual art looks much like her music sounds. As the saying goes, when God gave out talent, she stood in line twice.

Akihiro Taniguchi
Record Geijutsu, January 2011

The American composer Gloria Coates has a very individualistic musical language which mixes old and new elements such as modern compositional techniques of microtones, glissandos, and even folklike melodies freely together in a new revolutionary musical style. Her “String Quartet No. 9” is an outstanding example of her music. It is skillfully crafted in her characteristic style using glissandi in long lines without melodies, free from restraints of ordinary playing techniques, being abstract, intimate, and avant garde at the same time. The “Solo Violin Sonata” has titles that suggest older musical forms. In reality, the piece is very modern. If you will not look at the technical titles, you will discover very passionate music, especially in the ‘Fantasy’ movement. The trio for piano, violin and cello called “Lyric Suite” sounds very romantic in the piano. The work is composed of several movements which are lyrical, but the retuning of the strings to create microtones gives the work a strange, uneasy sound. In the last movement there is an extremely beautiful melody couched in the microtonal lines. If one listens to the music in a very simple, open way, he will discover a mysterious and mystical new world of sound that he will also feel deep within himself.

(translated by Mitchiko Kaneshiro)

David Kettle
The Strad, January 2011

Gloria Coates (b. 1938) writes music that is as close to surrealism as any I know. An American composer who has lived in Munich since 1969. She uses simple, often straightforwardly diatonic elements, yet twists them into a musical language that is quite bizarre and otherworldly. In the Ninth String Quartet (2007), for example, the first violin and viola play a quarter-tone out from the second violin and cello throughout. And in the Lyric Suite for piano trio ‘Split the Lark - and you’ll find the Music’ (1996), based around Emily Dickinson poems, there are pleasantly diatonic melodic lines, but they wander seemingly aimlessly in all directions. Glissandos about, often slow, controlled and ear-bending.

But it’s fascinating music, at once approachable and unsettling. The Kreutzer Quartet gives a thoroughly committed performance of the Quartet, treating Coates’s unusual demands with due seriousness, although the players perhaps lack a little of the wit or sparkle that would have brought the music more alive. First violinist Peter Sheppard Skærved rises magnificently to the challenges of the Sonata for violin solo (2000), especially in the appropriately subdued Berceuse, where his hushed, introverted tone matches the music beautifully. He’s joined by the quartet’s cellist Neil Heyde in the Lyric Suite, and, together with pianist Roderick Chadwick, they deliver a rich, colourful performance, the string players resisting the temptation to play in tune with the piano or (at times) with each other.

It’s a shame that the recorded sound—the boomy acoustic for the String Quartet and solo Sonata, and the piano at times engulfing the strings in the Lyric Suite—sometimes lets the splendid performances down.

Joshua Kosman
San Francisco Chronicle, December 2010

Best known as a prolific symphonist, the American composer Gloria Coates is also the creator of a wealth of distinctive and darkly beautiful chamber music. Her String Quartet No. 9, which has its premiere recording here in a full-throated performance by the Kreutzer Quartet, offers a characteristic glimpse of Coates’ compositional voice. It’s a blend of plangent tonal harmonies with skittering dissonances, all of it lent a wonderfully lugubrious air by having the instruments tuned lower. The two movements of the quartet unfold in stately counterpoint that is translucently scored but given thick density by the instrumental textures themselves; the effect is uncompromising, at times daunting, but always gripping. Similarly forceful is the Sonata for Violin Solo, which gets a gritty performance by Peter Sheppard Skaerved, the Kreutzer’s first violinist. And in a lighter vein after all that brooding intensity, Coates’ Lyric Suite for Piano Trio—quirky, ebullient, almost sentimentally lovely—comes as a delightful change of pace.

Donald Rosenberg
Gramophone, December 2010

A composer with 15 symphonies to her credit could be categorised as an artist who always thinks on a large scale. But think again where Gloria Coates is concerned. An American who has been based in Munich for four decades, Coates has shown on Naxos discs of eight string quartets that she also brings a bold, inventive and ethereal creative spirit to intimate works.

The newest recording of Coates’s chamber music comprises her striking Ninth String Quartet and arresting pieces for solo violin and piano trio, all given incisive and expressive performances by the Kreutzer Quartet and company. It’s clear from these scores that the composer deeply respects the past even as she takes intriguing sonic detours.

String Quartet No 9 exemplifies Coates’s distinctive language, which subtly embraces micro-tonal details and other techniques in narratives that seize the ear and never let go. In the expansive first movement, the strings begin in Bach-like fashion before weaving an extraordinary fabric of glissando passages.

Like the quartet, the disc’s remaining works are dark in atmosphere and rich in content. The Sonata for Solo Violin travels through myriad mystical realms in four movements exploring the instrument’s poetic and acrobatic possibilities. The vocabulary is more tonal, though coloured by Coates’s characteristic tweaks of pitch, harmony and effect, in the Lyric Suite for Piano Trio, whose subtitle, “Split the Lark – and you’ll find the Music” comes from a poem by Emily Dickinson. The seven movements abound in material of glistening and moody impact.

Robert Carl
Fanfare, December 2010

Kyle Gann, in his reliably informative notes, describes Gloria Coates (b.1938) as 'one of that elect group [of composers]…who can write music that is simple, instantly memorable - and bizarre.' I could almost stop the review right there, because it’s an apt description. But of course there’s a little more to say.

Coates has lived most of her mature artistic life in Munich, and while I think Europe has given her support to pursue her uncompromising vision, ironically, it’s also allowed her to assert her aesthetic’s essential 'American-ness'. There are superficial similarities to the Pendereckian Polish School (i.e. glissandi and micro-tones above all), but in fact Coates is a direct descendant of the American 'Ultramodernists', who tore up the concert world during the first decades of the 20th century. To my ear Carl Ruggles is the closest ancestor (and Coates, like Ruggles, is a fine artist, her paintings adorning the covers of this Naxos series), but of course Ives, Cowell, and Ruth Seeger also feel like kin.

But Coates is very much her own artist. This music, with its stark, 'in your face' use of the most evident materials cultivates an elemental, raw quality that makes Ruggles appear obsessed with technical polish. Not that Coates is either naïve or sloppy; I think the music has genuine craft in its pacing, its sequencing of textures and devices, its swings between simplicity and complexity. But the impression of predominant 'animal spirits' remains...But interestingly, this collection of chamber works shows that when stripped down to the essential components of string quartet, solo violin, and piano trio, her music projects a genuine power that is idiomatic to these media. The string quartet is an obsessive two-movement work that lasts almost a half hour, and while one might argue it goes on too long, I still stuck with it, at times thrilled with its chutzpah. The Violin Sonata is striking for its extensive multiple-stops, combining chant and chorale qualities. And the Piano Trio is often disorienting, as the keyboard plays noble, sometimes Lizstian triadic harmonies, but the strings use quarter tones. The result is like a sort of heroic romanticism bent and warped by outside forces too strong to resist - perhaps an apt description of the plight of the individualistic artist in our own time.

I’m reminded of another composer, and it may seem too obvious, since she and Coates share gender, but that really is tangential to my point. Galina Ustvolskaya was similarly raw, fearless, brutal, and disorienting, maybe even more so than Coates. But both composers project a sort of super-intense, 'naturalistic' modernism, the product of a hermetic vision that by its inward focus paradoxically reaches out to cosmic expanses.

The performances seem consistently excellent. Peter Sheppard Skaerved is first violin of the Kreutzer (Mihailo Trandafiovski, violin 2; Morgan Goff, viola; Neil Hyde, cello), and has shown himself to be a fearless advocate of American music he deems derserving of exposure in an often uncaring world (his rescue of the Rochberg Violin Concerto in its original version is a case in point)...I’m very happy it’s with us, and I applaud its guts., November 2010

PIAZZOLLA, A.: Sinfonía Buenos Aires / Aconcagua / 4 Seasons of Buenos Aires (Binelli, Tianwa Yang, Nashville Symphony, Guerrero) 8.572271
COATES, G.: String Quartet No. 9 / Solo Violin Sonata / Lyric Suite (Kreutzer Quartet, Chadwick) 8.559666

The inclusion of new music on the Baltimore Choral Arts Christmas recording opens up the possibility of handling musical gift-giving in a somewhat different way: by using CDs to expand the recipient’s auditory horizons, even if the discs are not overtly celebratory. Either the new Astor Piazzolla CD or the one featuring music of Gloria Coates could be an excellent choice along those lines—and thanks to Naxos’ usual budget pricing, neither represents a significant financial investment in case the gift proves less successful than the giver hopes. The Piazzolla includes a violin-and-strings arrangement of the composer’s best-known piece, Four Seasons of Buenos Aires—or, as it is properly called, Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas. Tianwa Yang, a very fine young violinist, does an excellent job with this work, bringing out its rhythmic qualities effectively. But it is the other pieces here that really make the CD unusual and a worthy gift, with Daniel Binelli doing an excellent job playing the bandoneón in both. From the symphonic use of the tango—which Piazzolla always handled so idiomatically and interestingly—to the dramatic virtuosity that pervades the Bandoneón Concerto, this is a CD filled with exotic sounds, interesting rhythms, intense emotion and tremendous verve. And yet the Coates CD would make an equally intriguing and colorful open-your-ears present. Coates is best known as a symphonist, but the sound palette of her ninth and most recent string quartet (2007) shows a masterful way with smaller forces as well. The very considerable technique required for the Sonata for Violin Solo (2000) makes for real ear stretching (complementing the finger stretching required of the performer), and the Lyric Suite (1996) is fascinatingly spooky, the music fitting very well with its movements’ subtitles from Emily Dickinson poems (the suite itself is called “Split the Lark—and you’ll find the Music”). Both the Coates CD and the Piazzolla recording offer gift-givers and recipients alike the chance to hear serious, interesting, unusual recent music (the earliest work on either CD dates to 1951), very well performed and recorded, and with considerably more staying power than even the best overtly seasonal recording is likely to possess.

Guillaud Rollin, October 2010

Gloria Coates is an American composer who mostly lives in Germany and who composes music that is somewhat minimalist (I prefer to use the term ‘intimate’). It is often slow, and one hears subtle changes of color in repetitive builds. The 9th quartet dating from 2007 is the continuation of her complete list of quartets issued on Naxos and performed by the Kreutzer Quartet (the third disc.

This quartet is in two movements. In the first movement, one cannot help but think of an aviary with birds chirping, fluttering their wings etc. It is like being inside an aviary, but one that is calm and somewhat mysterious. The second movement is all about glissandi, a procedure highly prized by the composer.

An extremely virtuoso sonata for solo violin follows the quartet.

In a strong and beautiful manner, the final work closes this disc. It is a piano trio composed on some poems by Emily Dickinson. The piano plays melodic fragments most of the time, which then are somewhat suggested more than played, by the stringed instruments. The music is melancholy and very beautiful, especially at the end of the piece. In short, a contemporary music that speaks not only to the intellect but also to the heart.

I give this disc ‘five stars’, although I understand the criteria concerning pace. It is given with my subjective judgment. Also, I think we should applaud and encourage Naxos for this edition (There is a booklet of 12 pages in English and the price of it is excellent), and congratulate the Kreutzer Quartet and the pianist for the excellent interpretation of these works.

Massimo Ricci
Touching Extremes, October 2010

Gloria Coates is the female composer who has written the biggest number of symphonies—fifteen, like Shostakovich. This notwithstanding, there’s still an unjustified discretion surrounding her amazing music, principally characterized by the use of glissando but also abounding in tone clusters and altered tunings that hide hundreds of mysteries, signified by the breathtaking effects that the bordering upper partials engender across rather spacious contrapuntal designs.

In the liner notes, Kyle Gann rightly compares the aural consequences of some of Coates’ work to Glenn Branca’s, especially referring to the atypical textures weaved by the superimpositions of slightly detuned strings (which should also be appreciated by lovers of just intonation). However, the grace and the fragile tenderness heard in, say, the sixth chapter [ie. movement—Ed.] of “Lyric Suite For Piano Trio” are the unique product of a vision that started several decades ago, and that once caused a teacher to ask young Gloria about the hypothetical audience for a score that she had created, needless to say entirely revolving around glissandos. She replied that maybe someone would have been willing to listen in the future.

Those in the know indeed listened, but it’s not enough. Hopefully this record will further enhance the acuity of scarcely informed yet discerning individuals, since it contains elements of Coates’ art that are absolutely fundamental to understand her concept at large. For example, the slowly intertwining parabolas that start at six minutes into “String Quartet No. 9” are at the same time disquieting and illuminating, recalling phenomena retained by the memory through some sort of irrational process, possibly rooted in ancient eras and genetically retransmitted. Another highlight is the gradual seesaw underlying the initial part of the second movement, which generated a silent flashback bizarrely linked to the moaning ebb and flow of my mum’s floor polisher which, indistinctly perceived from under the blankets during this youngster’s REM phase, used to originate a goosebump-eliciting mixture of mild threat and sense of protection that can’t be logically explained to this day.

The performers result totally attuned with the composer’s mental picture. Kreutzer Quartet (Peter Sheppard Skærved, alone in “Sonata For Violin Solo”, Mihailo Trandafilovski, Morgan Goff, Neil Heyde) and pianist Roderick Chadwick are practically perfect throughout, controlling lyricism and dissonance with utter responsiveness, gifting the whole set with superb sounds that, I’m sure, fulfilled the anticipations of the ever-enthusiast originator of these pieces. Nothing in this CD leaves space to doubt: in times when brutal ignorance is growing everywhere, we need more of this woman’s sensitive prowess. © 2010 Touching Extremes

Peter Grahame Woolf
Musical Pointers, October 2010

This latest release in an important series has a new line-up for the Kreutzer Quartet. They give a stunning account of Coates' very difficult ninth quartet about which the booklet notes by Kyle Gann and Peter Sheppard Skærved are comprehensive and illuminating...The solo sonata and piano trio broaden the perspective of Gloria Coates' chamber music. It all sounds to be very well played and the disc is recommended strongly to collectors who want not to miss a unique compositional voice.

Joshua Meggitt
Cyclic Defrost, September 2010

Munich-based American composer Gloria Coates is a composer whose compositions stand up and shout their authority, gripping you by the lapel and slapping you about the face. To date she’s written fifteen symphonies and nine string quartets, as well as various orchestral, chamber and vocal pieces, making her the most prolific female composer, and rivalling the output of Shostakovich. Her music centres on the unsparing use of ear-cleansing, visceral sound effects—glissandi, tone clusters, unusual tunings, extra-musical gestures—recalling trailblazing late modernists Ligeti, Penderecki and Xenakis, put to more single-minded goals.

Her String Quartet No. 9 of 2007 features detuned first violin and viola, making the restless activity and dense textures sound even more dissonant, even the tonal bits sound wrong. There’s less sense of unified mass than in her symphonies, rather we hear scattered stages: lost staccato amblings, glissandi to nowhere, taps on the instruments body, passed from player to player. Following Coates’s bizarre logic is difficult, but it’s easy to blindly submit to her uncompromising approach.

The Sonata for Violin Solo (2000) is equally challenging, from the almost jaunty anti-melody of the opening ‘Prelude’ and inviting near-tonality of the ‘Berceuse’. These are dead-ends though, the overall impression remains lurching, a slow moving dirge, the performer pained, the virtuoso sonata a metaphor for life’s strenuous futility. The Lyric Suite for Piano Trio (1996), subtitled ‘Split the Lark—and you’ll find the Music’ after Emily Dickinson, calls for microtonal string playing, and hammered clusters and strumming of the strings from the pianist, creating a mood of considerable unease. The spaciousness and fluidity of these pieces make for an intriguing contrast with the more immediate thrills of Coates’s symphonies, but they all share the ability to leave the listener pleasingly flummoxed.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group