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Russian-German Composers Quartet: Not Only For…

Currently the pace of musical evolution around the world has quickened enormously as improvements have been made in transportation and communication. An increasing number of musicians have gained a working knowledge of more and more genres and are blending them in many different ways. This, I think, has brought about a golden age during which forms are being created out of syntheses the way jazz was initiated about a century ago.

Western classical music is certainly part of the international mix, so it’s interesting to see contemporary classical composers get involved in genre blending. Two members of this quartet are from Cologne, two from Moscow. From time to time they get together to make music. Two, Dietmar Bonnen and Ivan Sokoloff, are keyboardists. Alexei Ajgi plays violin and Manfred Niehaus viola. They double on other instruments, bring in guest artists and use sampling, enabling them to choose from a more varied timbral palette.

The primary influences on this music are 20th century composers such as Anton von Webern and John Cage, but non-classical elements can be heard as well. The quartet employs compositions by the Doors and Frank Zappa, and uses instruments not usually heard in classical settings, like the Jew’s harp and thunder sheet. And there’s some improvisation going on.

I dig what’s happening here but kind of doubt that Dixieland, swing and bop fans who are narrowly focused will have much use for this CD. Like it or not, though, the mixing of forms will continue all over the globe. Supporters of traditional genres of all kinds may feel embattled in the coming decades as young people get more involved in the synthesizing process.

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