Avanza String Quartet: Madoka Suzuki, Hisako Takahashi, violin; Masashi Sasaki, viola; Saeko Tominaga, cello
Momentous performances by Avanza all over the four quartets comprised by this download-only release, the 50th in the career of the multi-talented Japanese. The pieces are titled after Italian and Slovenian cities (Milano, Ljubljana, Trieste and Venezia), although the reasons for this are unidentified. If you asked me an adjective defining how these ears conceptualize the essence of this music, the answer would translate as “relatively restful” with a (welcome) caveat: there is no sign of the too-common occidental viscous indolence transpiring from the execution. Even when the pace tends to adagio, there is always something that lets us intuit a meticulous selection of uneasy parallelisms and somewhat divergent linear solutions that pushes the counterpoint away from any risk of mustiness. Every gesture appears resolute and, so to speak, “gracefully charged”; every harmonic turn decisive in the economy of a given section. We can treasure the subtlest details of attacks, sustains and decays and the deliciousness of the chordal aromas, enjoying the lack of futile ornamental cosmetics in the meantime. This aggregation of mild grit, sure-footed interplay and fidelity (one presumes) to the scores produces a wealth of reminiscent resonances imbued with superb technique. This reviewer has been listening to these tracks unceasingly in the last few days, progressively finding additional explanations for the reinforcement of the initial optimism. By now we’re not surprised anymore when meeting this composer’s new oeuvres: while looking at the past with intelligence, Koji Asano remains a man whose susceptibility to artistic renovation is incontestable. With sonically riveting results, for good measure.