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Posadas: Liturgia fractal

Five string quartets:
Ondulado tiempo sonoro

Quatour Diotima

Kairos CD KAIR 12932 [52 mins]

Alberto Posadas (b.1967) met Francisco Guerrero in 1988 and considered him his real master. Together with Guerrero he discovered new techniques for musical form creation such as mathematical combinatorics and the fractals.

I first came across his music in Strasbourg:

- - The Orchestre National concert included the most astonishing premiere heard during my visit. Alberto Posadas composed Apeiron in 1993, when he was only 25. It was very much in the idiom of Scelsi's little known last orchestral pieces, still ignored by the British musical establishment, with slow timbral transformations of notes and chords developing cumulative power. Posado even ended with a tintabullation which reminded me of the last minute of Scelsi's Pfhat, in which all the orchestral players tinkle triangles!

Had he soaked himself in the orchestral music of Giacinto Scelsi, a twentieth century composer especially dear to me about whom I have written extensively, one might fairly have accused him of plagiarism. But Posadas confirmed, in one of the festival's pre-concert discussions with the eminent Belgian musicologist and Scelsi specialist, Harry Halbreich, that he had not known Scelsi's music at all when composing Apeiron - - It was uncanny to what extent Posadas had in this piece virtually reinvented a whole world of musical thinking which even now has not become as well known as it merits - - .

Posadas was featured again in Harry Halbreich's 2001 Lisbon festival where I met him:

Alberto Posadas (b 1967) had to wait 6 years to hear his orchestral Áperion and seven before the Ardittis gave the world premiere in Lisbon of his A Silenti Sonitu (1994), which was a comprehensive demonstration of many possibilities for the 'new' string quartet, music which took the innovations of Scelsi and others to further extremes and may have daunted other quartets who looked at the score. Composers need to keep those realities of the music business in mind.

Now we have this important cycle of string quartets, designed to be played together or separately. They can be considered alongside Guerrero's Zayin, which I have admired in the Arditti Quartet's recording:

- - the cumulative effect of the extended techniques employed is invigorating and, to my ears, exciting. It is easier to take than a lot of modernist music, because his sound structures burst with imagination in colour and rhythmic vitality. - - The 16 minute Zayin VI explores the violin's low G string, as if looking for more depth, producing a dark sound - 'a violin that wants to sound like a quartet'.- - If you know, and are comfortable with, the Ardittis' recordings of Xenakis and Ferneyhough [Montaigne 782005 & 789002] you should enjoy this. If not, start not at the beginning, which may feel like a plunge into ice-cold water, but sample first Zayin V, 'one of Guerrero's most exquisitely sweet works' says the notes writer (with which I concur) or the 16 minute violin solo Zayin VI - -

The notes for Liturgia fractal are daunting, but the music, as with Guerrero's, is not; the kaleidoscope of sound is alluring and in no way repellent.

There is a really illuminating interview. Talking about learning this music with the composer, the players describe it as; "precisely the opposite of Lachenmann: traditional materials employed in a unique, modern way" - - "at once similar and different to Zayin", which the Diotimas also play...

These musics are easier to enjoy than to describe; I recommend it strongly, and hope both these cycles, by master and pupil, will make it from Europe across the English Channel (a formidable barrier for contemorary music!) to London's Wigmore Hall or King's Place.

Meanwhile, there are some wonderfully innovative string quartet cycles to purchase which we have reviewd on CD, e.g. for starters Murray Schafer's seven, and Jörg Widmann's five on MDG (he actually achieved a residency at Wigmore Hall this year).

Further responses to Posadas' Liturgia fractal would be welcome.

Peter Grahame Woolf