A long-standing musical friendship is celebrated

Bozzini Quartet: Frey


The Strad Issue: April 2024

Description: A long-standing musical friendship is celebrated

Musicians: Bozzini Quartet

Works: Frey: String Quartet no.4

Catalogue number: COLLECTION QB CQB2432

Swiss composer Jürg Frey – who turned 70 last year – has had a long association with the Montreal-based new-music specialists, the Bozzini Quartet, writing three quartets for it across a span of 20 years. That closeness and mutual understanding is more than evident in the Bozzini’s sensitive, thoughtful account of his hour-long, five-movement Fourth Quartet from 2020.

It’s a remarkable piece: sparse, reflective, often just a step away from silence, and sounding as though classical gestures have been boiled down to their bare bones, ready for close inspection and contemplation. The Bozzini treads an expert path between almost mechanistic consistency across Frey’s sometimes barely changing musical ideas, while playing up subtle distinctions of light and shade, consonance and dissonance. Indeed, Frey makes more than a few nods to traditional quartet writing in the piece – for example in the second movement’s folk-like drones and ornamentations, and its rich minor-mode triads, which sound shocking after so much dissonance and so many unconventional sounds. The Bozzini embraces the breadth of Frey’s language with such conviction – and, it has to be said, such stamina and sustained intensity across his lengthy paragraphs – that the results are never less than persuasive.

It’s a work that repays close listening and reflection, and Frey could hardly have hoped for a performance of greater insight.