Release date: 8 July 2022
Following the success of their 2017–18 collaboration (Bozzini+, Piano Quintet, HCR19), the Bozzini Quartet is reunited with composer Bryn Harrison for Harrison’s first string quartet, the three-movement, hourlong Three Descriptions of Place and Movement (2021). A first string quartet is a landmark moment for any composer, but Harrison’s feels like a particularly significant arrival: the homogenous instrumentation is ideally suited to the disorienting labyrinthine structures, intricate repetitions, and extended durations that have characterised much of his recent work.
The title’s three ‘descriptions’ are clarified in the names of the movements. Opening, clearing, and burrow—all doubly verbs and nouns—are each embedded with simultaneous motion and stasis. Opening, an unfolding, widening, growing from a single point, as well as the aperture, the crevice, the window that frames the perception of space. Clearing, a kind of purging or scrubbing of materials down to their barren core, or a wide empty space, flat and nondescript, defined by the negative. And burrow, to carve deeper, to dig into, to bury oneself completely, or an underground cocoon, warm, enveloping, home.
Opening is constructed from a complex layering of information that obscures a rather simple harmonic motion: twin chromatic scales, one ascending, one descending, chasing each other in a wrapped double helix that opens, closes, and opens again. Tracing any one pattern, however, is instantly obfuscated by the displacement of successive pitches across octave and player, and by rhythmic patterns that control the speed at which each scale progresses.
After such intense concision and density, Clearing feels dangerously still. The same cross-hatched pitches, once buried by layers of complexity, are now laid bare at a permeating pianissimo. For nearly 25 minutes, the quartet enters in perfect rhythmic unison—two players at a time, six times a bar, at 63 beats per minute—unfolding the same spiral of pitches as before. Once the ear has grown accustomed to traceable consistency, Harrison introduces the first repeats in the work, catching the music mid phrase, insisting it revisit and review its pathways over and over again.
Burrow, the quartet’s final and longest movement, features the live quartet playing against two pre recorded versions of itself in canon, repeating the pitches and rhythms from opening verbatim but slowed now to half the original speed. Extensive repetitions, absent in opening, lodge the music further, and what was once a fleeting object becomes a fixated, rotating monolith stretching out in all directions.
EUROPADISC DISC OF THE WEEK
"a magnificent piece of music...an absolute marvel, a vast essay in messy borderism...a slow-burn epic...This recording really cements the Bozzinis [Quartet] as miraculous interpreters of slow and stripped-back longform music...They really are developing a particularly epoch-defining body of work that has been written for them" Kate Molleson, BBC Radio 3 New Music Show
"The Montreal based ensemble Quatuor Bozzini bring exceptional sensitivity, collective skill and insight to their realisation of this conceptually sophisticated, musically engrossing composition by University of Huddersfield composer and professor, Bryn Harrison." Wire magazine
"This is not music for the fainthearted, but for anyone with an interest in new music for string quartet, and in music that pushes the boundaries not just for performers but listeners too, this is an unusually captivating disc. Brilliantly recorded by James Clemens-Seely at Montreal’s Église St-Joseph de Rivière-des-Prairies in an acoustic that allows just the right amount of acoustic space around this experiment in time, and superbly performed by the Quatuor Bozzini, it’s a thoroughly recommendable album." Europadisc
"The Bozzini Quartet are a perfect ensemble for the challenges of Harrison’s score, its demanding specificity of expression, dynamics, and rhythm...Three Descriptions of Place and Movement is Harrison’s most successful and distinctive work to date. Once again, Huddersfield Contemporary Records presents a risk taking artist in the best possible sound and performance conditions. Recommended." Sequenza21
"...the homogenous timbre of a string quartet creates a remarkably dizzying effect which becomes incredibly hypnotic as you fall into the uncanny lull of the work." Morning Star
Recorded June 7–11 2021, Église St-Joseph de Rivière-des-Prairies, Montréal, Canada
Recording, Editing, and Mastering: James Clemens-Seely
With design by Mike Spikin, artwork by Bryn Harrison, and booklet notes by Tyler Bouque.
Catalogue Number: HCR27
Release Date: 8 July 2023