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Richard DANIELPOUR (b. 1956)
String Quartet No. 5 ‘In Search of La vita nova’ (2004) [21:23]
String Quartet No. 6 ‘Addio’ (2009) [28:12]
String Quartet No. 7 ‘Psalms of Solace’ (2014) [25:42]
Hila Plitmann (soprano)
Delray String Quartet
rec. 2015, The Hit Factory, Miami
NAXOS 8.559845 [75:55]

The name of the American composer Richard Danielpour is not new to me - I keep seeing it in the Naxos catalogue - but his music is. After listening to this disc a few times, I am wondering why it has taken so long for me to hear Danielpour’s music.

Like many American composers of his generation, Danielpour began by composing serial music, but abandoned this approach for what he describes as a more “accessible” style, one in which he credits the Beatles and John Adams amongst his influences. The three string quartets presented here, composed between 2004 and 2014, are from this later stage of the composer’s output.

Each of these works bears a title and a corresponding theme that is addressed in the music. The String Quartet No. 5, “In Search of La vita nova”, deals with the composer’s relationship with Italy where it was composed. Danielpour had used Italy as a place to recharge his batteries, a “place of renewal and perhaps even a place where things became radically alive”. This becomes evident in the music which has its roots in 20th century neo-romanticism, although it does feel, as the composer suggests in his booklet notes, “unresolved” or even incomplete, especially with its calm Adagio, cantabile final movement. This issue is resolved with the String Quartet No. 6 “Addio”. It is linked not only in being composed in the same place in Italy, but also seems to be derived from some of the same issues, although this time centred around the growth and separation of the family; it is a more dramatic quartet than No. 5. The String Quartet No. 7, “Psalms of Solace”, does not only refer to the composer’s search for the divine; the final movement also incorporates Biblical texts into the music.

There is, in the three quartets, strongly rhythmical intensity born out of neo-romanticism, but the music goes far beyond it whilst never losing its tonal heart. It intrigues and delights but does not scare. Yes, it is modern, but it is very accessible without losing its modernism. Such music which will make you want mor; this is certainly the case with me.

The Delray String Quartet are wonderful advocates for Richard Danielpour’s music. It was they who commissioned the Seventh Quartet. Their performance is excellent throughout. The soprano Hila Plitmann is in excellent voice and a perfect foil for the quartet. She makes Danielpour latest quartet my favourite work presented here. Hopefully he will go on to compose further quartets.

Stuart Sillitoe


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