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Resch/Beethoven: String quartets (Genuin)

The Frankfurt-based Aris Quartet play Beethoven with sweeping flair and something close to insouciance

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The trouble with most music by unfamiliar contemporary composers is that the listener has no idea where it’s coming from. The Austrian Gerald Resch gets over this hurdle by rooting his third string quartet, “attaca”, in Beethoven’s first Razumovsky quartet, opus 59/1. The context works remarkably well.

Resch, 46, is a former music journalist embedded in Viennese music, both historic and modern. He works with ensembles as different as the period-instrument Concentus Musicus and the Aureum saxophone quartet. In creating “attaca” he had a period of immersion with the trendy, Frankfurt-based Aris Quartet, among the most accomplished on the circuit.

Their Beethoven adagio sings like a Pentecostal nightingale

Resch’s citations of Beethoven are subliminal more than literal, but the mind absorbs them as a frame of reference on the “attaca” journey, like unlit milestones at night on a country lane. There is more darkness here than in Beethoven, but it is unthreatening. The 22-minute span of “attaca” feels exactly right for its materials, just enough to leave you wanting more.

The Aris go on to give a carefree reading of the Razumovsky, worlds apart from the stressed-out, middle-aged, male performers I grew up with. Has string quartet playing got easier, or have the players just got more relaxed? Has a better gender balance helped? Whatever the cause, the Aris play Beethoven with sweeping flair and something close to insouciance. When Covid is over, I shall hear them live. Meantime, their Beethoven adagio sings like a Pentecostal nightingale.

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