The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: Rock music and gliding are among the inspirations behind a series of string quartets
Musicians: Daedalus Quartet, Benjamin Hochman (piano)
Composer: Dillon

It’s a rare achievement to combine rigorous intellectualism with wit, spontaneity and fun, but the chamber works by US composer Lawrence Dillon (currently composer in residence at the University of Carolina School of the Arts) featured on this disc achieve it magnificently. Taking the age-old forms of fugue, aria and rondo as his starting points, he constructs 21st-century explorations that embrace rock riffs, musical gusts of wind, the darting flight of insects and the graceful but doomed gliding of paper aeroplanes – the latter two giving the disc its title.

The players of the Daedalus Quartet, who premiered two of the three quartets, prove ideal performers in combining precise articulation with a real sense of enthusiasm and fun. They deliver the rock-inspired rhythms in the Fourth Quartet with an appropriate power and swagger, yet they are lithe and nimble in some of its fleeter passages. First violinist Min-Young Kim has some sweet-toned solos in the first movement, and there’s vibrant rhythmic playing from cellist Raman Ramakrishnan throughout the work. The players clearly relish the Second Quartet’s six depictions of flight, but ironically most impressive is the fifth movement playground tableau ‘Swings’, whose affecting melody of childlike simplicity they offer with poignant elegance and grace. The beautifully nuanced playing continues in the piano quartet What Happened, although the recording here seems to favour the piano, often at the expense of the strings.

David Kettle