Dark Queen Mantra, Mas Lugares, Mythic Birds Waltz
Del Sol String Quartet, Gyan Riley
Sono Luminus DSL92215
Terry Riley was one of the founders of Minimalism, a compositional method defined by his iconic In C. Over his career he brought other influences to his work, including jazz and a hands-on interest in music from Northern India. He wrote a good deal for string quartet while teaching at Mills College, where the Kronos Quartet was in residence. A work composed for the Kronos was Mythic Birds Waltz (not in waltz time), written in 1983. It appears in this programme from the excellent Del Sol Quartet, who manage through sheer commitment and impetus to forge the disparate elements of Indian ragas, mid-century jazz harmonies and Minimalist rhythmic variations into a highly satisfying whole.
Dark Queen Mantra is more recent: a quintet for guitar and string quartet, written for the artists here, including the composer’s son Gyan (an excellent guitarist). Predictably, a Spanish flavour is in the mix, and virtually no hint of Minimalism: this could be a new work by Leo Brouwer. The counterpoint and harmonies are complex enough to be compelling throughout. This is a real find.
Mas Lugares is by the late Italian double-bass virtuoso Stephano Scodanibbio, who worked with Riley. Scodanibbio takes five Monteverdi madrigals, recreating them in string quartet format from a late-20th-century perspective.
Altogether, a varied, unusual and fascinating programme, played exceptionally well by this hot young San Franciscan group.