Michael Oesterle: Quatuors

Bozzini Quartet

Cover art: Christine Unger

Michael Oesterle’s friendship and connection with the Quatuor Bozzini dates back nearly 25 years to the quartet’s very first commission. Ever since, Oesterle has been exploring the sound of the string quartet through a catalog that spans from 1998 to 2019. Brilliantly constructed, his music is playful, intimate, sentimental, and demanding.

Daydream Mechanics is inspired by the book Mécanique jongleuse by Québec poet Nicole Brossard and explores hypnotic figures, playing on the border between memory and perception. String Quartet No. 3 “Alan Turing” is a tribute to the English scientist and his free spirit whose creative potential we have irretrievably lost. Serious or playful, the colorful and evocative pieces of Three Pieces for String Quartet have as a common thread endangered animals. Finally, his most recent String Quartet No. 4, is a large-scale work with a calm and sprawling style. And as in all his music, the search for balance in the musical materials, which are geometric and expressive, is at the forefront.

CD

This item can be downloaded and/or listened to at actuellecd.com.

  • Label: Collection QB
  • CQB 2229 / 2022
  • UCC 771028372928
  • Total duration: 65:22
  • Sympathique case
  • 126 mm × 126 mm × 5 mm
  • 35 g

Download

This item can be downloaded and/or listened to at actuellecd.com.

  • Label: Collection QB
  • CQB 2229_NUM / 2022
  • UCC 771028372980
  • Total duration: 65:22
  • SODEC

In the press

Review

Dolf Mulder, Vital, no. 1334, May 3, 2022

Quator Bozzini is Clemens Merkel (violin), Alissa Cheung (violin), Stéphanie Bozzini (viola) and Isabelle Bozzini (cello). For two decades, this Canadian Quartet has been in business and working continuously from a strong idealistic mission, specialising in realizing contemporary and experimental music projects. Many projects featured works from composers from the Montréal-area and other parts of the world. This time they concentrate on works by Michael Oesterle, a German-born composer who lives and works in Québec. He did his studies at the University of British Columbia and Princeton University in the US. He composes for the concert hall as well as theatre, film and dance productions. His compositions have been performed by outstanding ensembles like Ensemble Intercontemporain (Paris), and Tafelmusik (Toronto). Quator Bozzini is one of the ensembles Oesterle has worked for already for a long time. The quartet debuted in 2004 with ‘Portrait Montréal’ with works by Claude Vivier, Malcolm Goldstein, Jean Lesage and one by Michael Oesterle: Daydream Mechanics V (2001). This composition is included again on this new release by the quartet with three other more recent compositions by Oesterle. The composition Daydream Mechanics V is also recorded recently by the ensemble Music in the Barns for their release for New Focus Recordings, beautiful, elegant work. The compositions on this new release by Quator Bozzini introduce Oesterle as a composer of accessible compositions of a minimalistic nature. The cd opens with String Quartet No. 4, his most recent composition and maybe the most complex one on this recording. A work built up from different episodes, some of them very melodic with a catchy theme contrasted with more rigorous parts. Like the opening part, very dynamic, contrasted with a very soft and reduced experimental section. Three Pieces for String Quartet ( 2016) has a pastoral atmosphere, with lively and accentuated gestures by the players. In the second part, the music touches on the motives of early classical music. String Quartet No. 3 “Alan Turing” (2010) is likewise an evocative work full of gentle and subtle movements, using a very close theme to the one used in the opening work. Interesting works delivered in an inspired performance!

Interesting works delivered in an inspired performance!

Review

Ben Harper, Boring Like A Drill, April 22, 2022

Quatuor Bozzini’s set of Michael Oesterle’s Quatuors opens with a nice comfy chorale that almost immediately drops away to a near-inaudible skein of harmonics. This piece, Oesterle’s String Quartet No. 4, is the latest and longest of the four pieces heard here (but not the entirety of his output for string quartet). The piece moves casually back and forth between slow pulses of alternating chords and scurrying patterns of harmonics, before returning to chorales and whispers. Oesterle gives no programme other than to assert that his musical materials are always “geometric, expressive, and puritanical”. It is the most subtly disorienting piece in the collection, as each passage yields to the next without any formal structural division, while beguiling sounds are tempered by a secretiveness as to where, if anywhere, the music may be directed. Quatuor Bozzini’s style of playing ideally evokes that shrouded expressivity, never loud but each phrase always indelible, however softly it is played.

The remaining three pieces are more easily apprehended, each falling into neatly digestible sections. String Quartet No. 3 “Alan Turing” from 2010 explores patterns, gestures and textures with an appropriate sense of wonder and discovery mingled with loss and regret. The Bozzinis bring out the gentle playfulness of each movement, slightly darkened by the melancholy of its subject. The harmonic language and gestures at times recall the freshness of a previous generation’s “post-minimal” tonality in its first flowering, before it was worked in harness to the service of Hollywood soundtracks. The titles of 2016’s Three Pieces for String Quartet evoke various animals but Oesterle’s notes again cite geometrical puzzles as each piece’s prime mover, claiming inspiration from Stravinsky and Cage. I can hear a kinship with Ruth Crawford in here, which is the highest of praise. The earliest piece here, Daydream Mechanics from 2001, is the most extended and hushed movement in the collection, with genuine whispering, searching out unexpected consequences from an otherwise confined grid of chordal patterns. Quatuor Bozzini’s championing of this composer, matching his language with a refinement of style that moves from rapid filigree to near-stillness in the same mode of emotion, reveals depths slowly swirling below the undemanding surface.

Quatuor Bozzini’s championing of this composer, matching his language with a refinement of style that moves from rapid filigree to near-stillness in the same mode of emotion, reveals depths slowly swirling below the undemanding surface.