The way the world looks today, maybe it’s not so strange that artists in all genres are responding by lifting forth the most clean sense of beauty. Evil does not let itself be fought with something equally crooked, with power or violence, when life itself is in danger. This is how I experience the singularly skilled and brave Canadian Quatuor Bozzini’s choice of expression free from all outward ornamentation to reach the musical core. Performing the first two of Borås native Lars Hallnas’ string quartets — of ten planned — they were very much at home. Not a vibrato during the whole evening, giving the abstract quality of the music an unusual effect.
In both quartets Hallnas seems to have extracted the most magic moments of vibrating stillness and through-lit harmony in the spirit of Schubert or Beethoven. However, he stores such moments — varying in length from short to very short and minimal — after each other, 24 movements in each quartet. The effect is surprising. After the first two or three glimpses of this exquisite beauty the listener adjusts. We quickly enter a state of meditative listening where timelessness, concentration and reflection are created. Typically enough, Hallnas calls himself a hopeless intellectual, with intuition limited to perhaps ten percent and abstract thinking making up the other ninety percent.
The musicians made a grand performance, although the first quartet perhaps had too soft and reticent character. With a somewhat more powerful performance, the second was given larger lines and deeper shadows, although never of the angst-ridden kind. It was more like sitting in the shadow of a huge oak tree, calmly reflecting on nature’s constantly changing details. The effect was in part minimalistic, but here beyond chance and seeking of effects. With his quartets, Hallnas takes his place among the most influential of contemporary composers.
The experiment to allow the same quartet to take on Schubert and Beethoven are among my most exciting musical experiences of all time. As a whole, Schubert was the most successful. To meet what this 17-year old produced of beauty and richness in nuance was like seeing the eighth wonder of the world. Beethoven’s late a minor quartet didn’t have the same overwhelming effect in the first two movements, but in Heiliger Dankgesang and thereafter to the end, the fantastical sounds became larger and braver, more beautiful than perhaps anything I have heard. The people of Borås have had the chance to hear one of the most meaningful and finally most successful art-esthetical experiments we know of. Imagine, this was the first time that Bozzini took on this Beethoven quartet.