ETHEL – Heavy


Cornelius Dufallo: violin; Ralph Farris: viola; Dorothy Lawson: cello; Mary Rowell: violin

A CD from 2012 by an acclaimed ensemble I was not acquainted with, whose actual lineup is different from the one featured in Heavy. Most modern string quartets represent the ideal medium to incarnate the fashionable traits of today’s music; exceptions could not be found here. Let’s take a look: performances of scores penned by famed current composers (check this link to get the names of those who contributed to the occasion), a multitude of supporting foundations and organizations listed in the liner notes together with brands of bows and softwares endorsed by some of the members. A sleeve shaped like that of a 7-inch vinyl, the black-on-red thin fonts of the inner cardboard sheet’s writings virtually illegible to obey the laws of fine graphics. The mix of utter predictability and moderate curiosity typical of such a kind of release immediately perceivable.

Instrumental deftness pervaded by a type of “intensity” that sounds premeditated, occasionally hiding the aridity of a given composition (case in point, the rather tiresome “Early That Summer” – courtesy Julia Wolfe). Respectable enough contrapuntal combinations in slightly less foreseeable conditions (Don Byron’s “String Quartet No.2: Four Thoughts About Marvin Gaye”). Comfortably ornamental Eastern hues (Raz Mesinai’s “La Citadelle”). The moment of hypothetical elevation of the soul, synchronous in this context with David Lang’s “Wed”. The smart wink to genres easily approachable by the cultivated ignoramus, typified by John King’s “No Nickel Blues” (a nice track, after all). A recipe comprising a quantity of inexpensive ingredients, the overall grade of sincerity not demonstrable (the obviously brilliant playing notwithstanding). Heaven may know why, when listening to Kenji Bunch’s “String Circle 1” a bloodcurdling picture of U2’s Bono joining the procedures with his choreographed hoarse ululations materializes in this reviewer’s mind.

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