If the JACK Quartet continues producing definitive recordings at its current rate, preschools may be obligated to launch composition departments to fill the demand for new scores.
The group’s latest release zeroes in on áltaVoz Composers, a consortium of Latin-American composers schooled in the United States. All are ferociously talented yet underrepresented, and with their voices filtered through the discerning lens of JACK and the New Focus Recordings label, the results are luring and delectable.
Felipe Lara from Brazil contributes Tran(slate). This piece endeavors to transmute electronic music phenomena into the often equally-glitchy world of the analog string quartet, and here we have JACK at its most elegant. The friction of a bow grinding in to over-pressure, abrupt whips like a record spun in reverse, and the thwacks of snap pizzicati never play as confrontational, but rather, are delivered as familiar and enchanting as any Romantic-era gesture.
L’ardito e quasi strident gesto by Mexican José Luis Hurtado moves the action into a more percussive sphere. It often plays like the sounds of cherished possessions clattering to the pavement, tossed off a 40th-floor balcony by a fed-up lover. Objects delicately flutter on descent, creating fascinating rhythms as they asymmetrically split open upon contact.
- Doyle Armbrust
The vertical bent of the Hurtado leads us to the horizontal, Rube-Goldberg machine of Every new volition a mercurial swerve by Mauricio Pauly of Costa Rica The JACK players coordinate the pace of their bow strokes in relation to one another here, like a self-regulating confederacy of tone-crunchers, and the final bars of the piece are as gripping as anything we've heard.
In an odd twist, the most historical-sounding piece – and the album’s only multi-movement work – is saved for last. Jorge Villavicencio Grossmann’s String Quartet No. 3, "música fúnebre y nocturna," finds its voice in the midpoint of the last century. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is dedicated to the Brazilian/Peruvian composer’s former teachers, Lukas Foss and Ayrton Pinto. The playing here is expert, from chromatic meanderings through luminous, hocket-ed pizzicato, and into dusky melodies.