Balanescu Quartet

FRANK CLIFF Norwich Playhouse (Norfolk and Norwich Festival)


Norwich Playhouse (Norfolk and Norwich Festival)

The Balanescu is in many ways the antithesis of the conventional string quartet; a group whose dedication to contemporary repertoire was very different from the norm.

Alexander Balanescu is both virtuoso violinist and composer whose commitment to a wide variety of different musical worlds is reflected in his collaborations with such different artists as Michael Nyman, Kate Bush and Kraftwerk.

Last night's sparse audience did not reflect the current interest in chamber music. Perhaps unjustifiably.

The first half featured the first performance of Balanescu's Norfolk Wanderings, a string quartet structured, according to his programme note, around a series of walks in Norfolk. The music is minimalist: endless repetitions of small musical ideas, backed by dialogue, presumably of a certain gravitas as I heard Spinoza.

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Luminitza was inspired by return visit by Balanescu to his native Romania in 1992. The work engages the same repetitive minimalism, but with much more vitality, derived from the native folk music; stimulating if over long.

The final piece was inspired by the electronic music of Kraftwerk, and here through attempting what he describes as the equivalent sound world, Balanescu produces an exciting and infinitely varied range of exciting noises from the string quartet.

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