Album review: Keller Quartett, Ligeti String Quartets, Barber Adagio (ECM New Series)


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The Independent Culture

The Keller Quartett are a Hungarian group, here showcasing two of their countryman György Ligeti's astringent string quartets of the Fifties and Sixties, separated by the calm lacuna of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, from the Thirties.

There's an intriguing contrast between the frantic, dizzying dash, interspersed with moments of cryptic contemplation, of the Modernist works – the first aptly subtitled Métamorphoses nocturnes – and the sombre Romanticism of Barber's popular Adagio, here sounding thinner but no less oceanically melancholy than in full orchestrated versions. But the latter has an ascetic quality that somehow suits the jagged, restless topography of the Ligeti pieces.

Download: String Quartet No 1; Molto Adagio from String Quartet op. 11; String Quartet No 2