Haydn wrote sixty-eight string quartets during years as Kapellmeister in the service of Prince Esterhazy, each more inspired than the next, some more familiar than others. Among them, the String Quartet No. 11 in D Minor, Op. 9, No. 4 is exceptionally beautiful throughout its four movements. The String Quartet No. 23 in F Minor, Op. 20, No. 5 closes the album. Both works amply demonstrate the technical prowess and the peerless elegance of the youthful Ruisi Quartet in its recording debut on Pentatone.

The album juxtaposes an arrangement of the Fantasie from Matthew Locke’s 17th century Suite No. 3 in F with an arrangement of Locke’s Fantasie from Suite No. 5 in G Minor by the contemporary composer Oliver Leith. The pairing of the two provides an intriguing connection, with Leith, who was inspired by Locke’s 1600’s hints of dissonances, boldly putting them up front in a remarkable take on Locke’ original.

Oliver Leith’s The Big House keeps Locke and Haydn good company with its seven sections. Big House overlaps ostinato patterns with interjections in the upper register of the violin. Blue Bottles has the cello moaning in double-stops, while Sunshine Choir achieves a temporarily calming effect through repeated bowings in an atonal mode. Cornicing, Home Chapel Organ, Pomegranate, and Fish Eggs and Wine have Leith exploring the seemingly static quality of his music, evoking mystery, and melancholy.

Ruisi Quartet – Big House – YouTube

Rafael de Acha © 2023

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