This disc features a selection of chamber music by the American composer Martin Bresnik (b.1946), ‘spiritual advisor’ of the Bang on a Can generation of Gordon, Torke et al. It is ordered chronologically and progresses from the obtuse and difficult String Quartet no.2 of 1984 into more listener-friendly waters, before concluding with a multi-media DVD recording – it makes for an intriguing audio biography.
The Flux Quartet captures the alternating jagged interplay and bleakness of the String Quartet well. A rather woolly sound in the central movement is, I think, deliberate, while the tricky stab chords in the same section are negotiated slickly. The recording is quite revealing, and the cello rattles and breathing that have been left in add to the piece’s viscera.
Following this, the Jupiter Trio’s bare, clean rendition of the more obviously coherent Piano Trio (1988) is welcome. Sparingly used vibrato in the strings makes for a strong blend with the clarity of the piano, although the cello is drowned a little at times.
From here onwards, the role of string instruments diminishes, although the Bang on a Can All-Stars includes bass and cello. The latter’s sustained melodic prominence in The Bucket Rider is high in range and well controlled, although the rather elusive articulation of the clarinet with which it duets makes for slightly shabby ensemble in places.
The CD portrays Bresnick’s wider exploration of chamber timbres, and newcomers to his music might be put off by the opening track; but there is certainly something for string enthusiasts to chew on here.