7. Quatuor Bozzini: Jürg Frey

hcmf// 2015



La presse en parle


Spencer Allman, examiner, 23 novembre 2015

Day three of the 38th Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival saw a performance of string quartets by Jürg Frey, this year’s composer-in-residence.

St Paul’s Hall was the setting for this contemplative music, sensitively and superbly played by the Canadian ensemble Quatuor Bozzini.

String Quartet no 2 consisted of a long series of chords played extremely quietly, sometimes accompanied by humming by the players. This was another world of sound: like looking at flat scenery and then gradually appreciating how beautiful it is. Sometimes the soundscape resembled that of a distant choir.

Frey, who is Swiss, is linked to a German-based collective of musicians and composers known as ‘wandelweiser’, whose sphere of interest includes the role of silence in music.

The approach owes a good deal to the US experimental school that began in the 50s and 60s with composers like John Cage and Morton Feldman. But there also seems to be a quasi-religious association here — with the focus more on mindfulness than a deity, perhaps.

The spellbinding effect on the audience was continued with a rendition of Frey’s third quartet, here given its UK premiere. More very quiet music, which this time flowed and occasionally hovered. Some chords lasted so long that I wondered when the change would come — but then I realised it did not matter.

Such music is rarely performed in the UK — unlike, say, in France or Germany. Yet, while many other contemporary composers continue to reinvent the wheel, as it were, Frey takes us to another place.

It was a welcome initiative by the event’s organisers to present works by this important composer.

Other pieces by him — his so-called ‘sound installations’ — can be heard ‘ambiently’ by the people of Huddersfield in various public places around town while the Festival is on.

… sensitively and superbly played by the Canadian ensemble Quatuor Bozzini.


Kate Molleson, The Guardian, 23 novembre 2015

If I had to name the diametric opposite of Afterword, it might well be the music of Jürg Frey, featured composer at Huddersfield this year and a master of calm, elemental and egoless sounds. Montreal’s Bozzini Quartet gave a beautiful performance of his Second and Third Quartets.

The Second is a chordal procession that unfolds at breathing pace, unpushy and peaceful, poignant for the natural fade of each chord and resilient for the slow, steady momentum that makes the music feel as though it’s always just been there. The Third revisits similar ideas but is bolstered with rhythmic variation and more tangible colour. It takes virtuosic control for string players to whisper for an hour; after such quiet and careful textures, even the applause sounded deafening.

Virtuosic control… the Bozzini Quartet


Simon Cummings, 5:4, 3 novembre 2015

The Bozzinis presented Jürg Frey‘s second and third string quartets, the latter receiving its first UK performance. i’ve written about String Quartet No. 3 in the last few days in connection with its CD release on the Wandelweiser label, and it was interesting to hear how similarly it came across in the concert hall. I’m not sure whether i was expecting (or hoping) it to sound different, but i wonder whether an integral aspect of its hermetically sealed micro-universe is that looking for significant differences, either interpretative or subjective, is beside the point. As it happens, it did come across differently, but this was entirely due to coming in the wake of String Quartet No. 2, which was utterly remarkable as well as, i have to say, by far the superior composition. i’ve remarked before how Frey is especially interesting when pitch content is rendered vague, and throughout the Second Quartet its endless sequence of chords are sufficiently soft that fully grasping their triadic qualities is often a challenge, enabling them to function as very much more than just chords. On an initial reading, there seems to be something almost wilfully over-optimistic about Frey’s programme note aspiration that the piece “explores a space … between the fragility of individual details and an almost monumental appearance”. Monumental? seriously? — yet it really is, and in two important respects. The first is its demonstration of power, not in the moment or even the short-term, but wielded over longer periods with infinite patience. Each tiny chord comes to resemble a small puff of wind, the kind that might glance against a vast and seemingly impenetrable chunk of rock and, over a few aeons, erode and shape that rock into something wholly new, one infinitessimal piece at a time. The second is its demonstration of indefatigability, in the unceasing manner of its behaviour. Some years ago i trekked the Inca Trail in Peru, of which the second day is the most daunting, every step uphill. While many of us moved unevenly, bursts of brisk forward motion qualified very soon after with entirely stationary periods of oxygen-deprived panting and gasping, one member of the group continued at the same slow pace, unchanging, for the entire day. She never tired, never flagged — and she beat almost all of us to the top. And this is what we witness in the Second Quartet, the players moving as one, slowly but completely unstoppably. i’d call that monumental. As, indeed, would i describe the performance of both quartets by the Bozzinis, in what was a profoundly virtuosic display of still, quiet concentration (despite the periodic bronchial explosions from the more laryngitically-afflicted members of the audience); i’ve rarely seen a group of musicians look at each other with as much determined, unflappable focus. Everything about it was simply breathtaking.

I’ve rarely seen a group of musicians look at each other with as much determined, unflappable focus. Everything about it was simply breathtaking.