The title (Italian for “stellar droplets”) comes from Orion Nebula’s newborn stars, generated by the nuclear fusion of huge globules of gas and dust; stars are also the origin of the seven tracks’ names. Thus, associating the adjective “stellar” to the playing heard in this CD becomes commonplace. Philipp Wachsmann (violin), Charlotte Hug (viola), Marcio Mattos (cello) and John Edwards (double bass) conduct business with a combination of formal respect for the configurational clarity of a hypothetical composition: these pieces, recorded at the 2007 UNCOOL festival in Poschiavo, Switzerland, impressively resemble the upshot of written scores – with more than a hint to XX century’s literature – exalted and enriched by the kind of impulsive improvisation that one expects from musicians at this level of instrumental command.

In the liner notes, Caroline Kraabel makes a very good point about the initial trouble in recognizing the single voices even after many years of listening to them. Here lies the reason of this record’s accomplishment: the global yield of polychrome pitches, fractal percussiveness and structural multiplicity overcome the difficulties elicited by the thorny convolutions and atonal spirals – permeated by a measure of intransigency – that the quartet constantly delivers. The performers apply a logic of intelligibility to everything they play, dividing the stereo space in well-defined sectors, remaining disengaged from rigid rules yet appearing solid all along. The typical characters connected to contemporary music for strings – including the exploitation of rarely attended parts of the instruments – are astutely employed, proof of a technically enlightened maturity. Serialism, lyricism, dronage and the average reviewer’s pet quote – Lachenmann (yeah, let’s go and join the name-throwing party…) – get evoked and instantly disposed of in a matter of seconds.

Ultimately, the best way to tackle Gocce Stellari is absorbing it little by little over repeated listens, at first being flattened and somewhat pushed back by its bittersweet vigour, then dissecting the components to individuate and separate nuances and details. Both acts lead to the same conclusion: this is a persuasive record.

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