Italian composer Aldo Clementi (1925-2011) created using rigorous methods. Most of his works include canon (strict imitation) in a number of different ways. Clementi’s music is reserved and enigmatic in style, suggesting musical structure without being obvious.
One entrance to this difficult work is unaccompanied renaissance choral music. Otto frammenti (1978-97) is based on the 15th-century French folk song, L’homme armé, the cantus firmus (structural voice) of many renaissance masses and motets. Each fragment in the work uses a section of L’homme armé. The string quartet members play without vibrato suggesting the sound of viols. I find the effect mystical; even more so is Momento (2005), which draws me into sustained attentiveness to still intervals and chords in a sparse tonal landscape. Long consonant fifths and thirds glint out and shine, and the perfect fifth (that strings tune to) seems iconic for Clementi. The composer’s journey was a long one. By contrast, the much earlier, more chromatic Reticolo: 4 (1968) has a quick steady pulse involving both pizzicato and bowed notes that set up unexpected jazzy syncopations.
The Montréal-based Quatuor Bozzini are ideal interpreters of Clementi’s music. For example, in Satz 2 (2001) their mastery of intricate non-vibrato and sul ponticello (near the bridge) effects is striking. Champions of new music performance at a high level, with an international reputation and their own Collection QB recording label, this is an ensemble well worth experiencing.