Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Adrian Jack String Quartets Nos. 3, 4, 5, 6 & "08.02.01"

Arditti Quartet

Deux-Elles DXL 1116 (2006)

Adrian Jack's compositions don't wear their hearts on their sleeves, and need time to assimilate them. These quartets feature a wide variety of textures and combinations and are performed here with understated brilliance by the Arditti Quartet, bringing a limitless range of tone and colour to the music.

The two early quartets, (Nos. 3 and 4,) suggest to this listener the influence of Shostakovich, especially in the use of ostinati and bleak atmospheres; however, Jack's compositions are always dramatically incisive, with clear narrative structures that become more rewarding on each hearing. Other discernable influences include Messiaen, in frequent unison passages of additive rhythmic values - one entry at the opening of the fourth movement of the 3rd String Quartet is quite unexpected in its Joplinesque harmony. At other times the music has a clear cinematic quality.

Perhaps the most challenging work on the CD, from the listener's perspective, is the one-movement quartet entitled '08.02.01' - named after the date on which the Arditti Quartet performed it together with the 3rd and 4th quartets in a concert at St. John's, Smith Square. Jack writes in the sleeve-notes, “Schubert's somewhat inscrutable marking of Molto moderato is used deliberately to suggest an enigma,” and this sense of mystery prevails throughout the work. Indeed, the sheer brevity of the material makes the movement seem much ‘bigger' than it's four-minute length.

The fifth and sixth quartets, which comprise the rest of the disc, seem more taut than the earlier works. Changes of material occur quicker and with greater economy. The Sixth Quartet, a collection of character pieces, is a truly wonderful work - four distinct movements that yet make perfect sense in combination. If you are a string quartets fan, then this CD can be recommended highly.

In the opinion of this listener at least, it is perhaps more rewarding to listen to the compositions on this disc separately - there are some similarities between them, (for instance the ostinato figures in the fast movements, which are all based on either chromatic or major-second fluctuations) that detract from the identities of the quartets when listened to side-by-side.

Aleksander Szram

Full booklet details with illustrations can be seen and downloaded from