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Hunting Gathering Str Qrts

Kevin Volans Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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1. I.
2. II.
3. III.
4. String Quartet No.6
5. First Dance
6. Second Dance
7. Third Dance
8. Fourth Dance
9. Fifth Dance

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5.0 out of 5 stars Two sides of Kevin Volans well presented Aug. 4 2003
Format:Audio CD
To me Kevin Volans' string quartets are the best since Elliott Carter's five (and I hope that Mr. Carter will be able to get to a sixth one too). The two composers have taken the well established (and far far from being cliched) medium and made it distinctly their own. This disc presents three of Volans' seven string quartets (nos. 3-5, plus a short separate quartet movement, are out of print but very well worth seeking out; the most recent, the seventh, has not yet been recorded). This disc shows two sides of Volans in his composing career. In this corner there is the African Volans, represented by Quartets 1&2. They both offer a wealth of material from not only his South African homeland, but from the entire continent as well, and presented in a "non-pretentious New Age" manner. The first quartet is a series dance rhythms, while the second one could be seen as a Charles Ives channeling of indigenous material, the way ideas quickly follow each other or are juxtaposed. In the other corner there is the Abstract Volans, greatly influenced by Morton Feldman, blurring the lines of stillness and motion. The 6th String Quartet was written for live string quartet and a taped version of itself (similar to Steve Reich's Different Trains and Triple Quartet). The material is shared between both entities so that the source and its echo becomes blurred. There is very little motion to speak of. Whereas the 1st and 2nd quartets present a plethora of material, the 6th Quartet has only a handful of ideas at most and could easily proceed endlessly like Feldman's 2nd String Quartet if it had wanted to (and the folks who commissioned it allowed it to). There is so little there, just for the most part a toggling between two chords, usually based on fifths. Read more ›
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two sides of Kevin Volans well presented Aug. 4 2003
By Sparky P. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
To me Kevin Volans' string quartets are the best since Elliott Carter's five (and I hope that Mr. Carter will be able to get to a sixth one too). The two composers have taken the well established (and far far from being cliched) medium and made it distinctly their own. This disc presents three of Volans' seven [as of 3/06: ten] string quartets (nos. 3-5, plus a short separate quartet movement, are out of print but very well worth seeking out; the most recent quartets, 7-10, have not yet been recorded). This disc shows two sides of Volans in his composing career. In this corner there is the African Volans, represented by Quartets 1&2. They both offer a wealth of material from not only his South African homeland, but from the entire continent as well, and presented in a "non-pretentious New Age" manner. The first quartet is a series dance rhythms, while the second one could be seen as a Charles Ives channeling of indigenous material, the way ideas quickly follow each other or are juxtaposed. In the other corner there is the Abstract Volans, greatly influenced by Morton Feldman, blurring the lines of stillness and motion. The 6th String Quartet was written for live string quartet and a taped version of itself (similar to Steve Reich's Different Trains and Triple Quartet). The material is shared between both entities so that the source and its echo becomes blurred. There is very little motion to speak of. Whereas the 1st and 2nd quartets present a plethora of material, the 6th Quartet has only a handful of ideas at most and could easily proceed endlessly like Feldman's 2nd String Quartet if it had wanted to (and the folks who commissioned it allowed it to). There is so little there, just for the most part a toggling between two chords, usually based on fifths. Yet there is that feeling of motion and progression amongst the stillness, a feeling relief, elation, floating. My personal favorite Volans quartet is his Fourth (the second movement I see as some of the best music Feldman never wrote), complementing nos. 2&6, but as I said, his entire quartet oeuvre is quite marvelous in toto. And besides the Duke Quartet always play Volans very well (they have recorded all but no.3; I hope they are working on that along with nos.7-10).
4.0 out of 5 stars Kronos overall preferable in SQ 1 & 2, but a premiere and sole recording of Volans' 6th Aug. 30 2010
By Discophage - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I have been recently following with much enthusiasm Kevin Volans' compositional development, as illustrated by his output for String Quartet. It started with the hugely appealing African-inspired, dance-like repetitiveness of his first two String Quartets, "White Man Sleeps" and "Hunting: Gathering", and moved in the direction of increasing minimalism and pointillism in the 4th and 5th (the latter recorded on the now-defunct Collins Classics by the same Duke Quartet that is featured on this disc, with a Quartet movement from 1987, Duke Quartet). Mind you, the repetitiveness of the first two quartets was NOT minimal, and Volans even called his second, "Hunting: Gathering", the opposite of minimalism, as he sought to include in it as many different music parcels as possible - 23 in the course of its 26 minutes (said Volans - Kronos took less than 22 minutes to play it). The first three quartets were commissioned and premiered by the Kronos Quartet (White Man Sleeps was in fact the reworking for string quartet, at the behest of the Kronos Quartet, of an earlier piece), but they recorded only the first two (Pieces of Africa and Kevin Volans: Hunting: Gathering (String Quartet No. 2) (1987) - Kronos Quartet) and not the third (that was done by the Balanescu Quartet, along with the second, String Quartets 2 & 3), so this Black Box recording by the Duke Quartet comes in direct competition with their recording.

In "White Man Sleeps" the Kronos are preferable: they are more dynamic, biting and light-footed, the Duke more powerful certainly (try the cello outburst at 2:39 in track 1) and lyrical perhaps in a slightly plangent way, but also thick-textured and heavy-footed, despite some interesting points in tone color (like the sul ponticello and slow-paced ending of Dance 2 for instance). Their approach bogs down the 4th Dance, which becomes dirge-like.

The same interpretive values are at play in "Hunting: Gathering", with the Duke more deliberate and heavy where Kronos is more lithe and lean; here, in fact, the Duke Quartet's reading is more along the lines of the Balanescu's, but their added beef and immediate sensuousness of sound (compared to the Balanescu as well) works better here than in the first Quartet, and is at times even preferable to Kronos in the first movement and the short third movement - though not consistently. As in the 4th dance of White Man Sleeps, their approach brings a wistfulness to the second movement but simultaneously tends to bog it down and somewhat looses its lithe, whimsical, dance-like aspect, perfectly captured by the Kronos. This may be my favorite quartet of Volans. It evokes a Britten suffused with the sounds and colors of Africa.

Still, despite these interpretive shortcomings, the Black Box disc is indispensable for featuring Volans' 6th Quartet from 2000. Here, Volans completes his compositional journey towards a Morton Feldman kind of pared-down minimalism. One interesting aspect of Volans' compositional attitude is that, more than any other composer I can think of, he seems to draw his inspiration from the visual arts - and his inspirational art is the minimalism of Yves Klein, Marc Rothko, Philip Guston, James Turrell, Agnès Martin, Mondrian, Malevitch. Says Volans, "My ideal would be the equivalent of the blank canvas". Well, by his own admission, he isn't there yet (hasn't Cage already done it in his 4'33" of silence?). Here Volans offers 24 minutes of slow moving chords, succeeding each other, rarely more than a tone apart, each slightly accented. Cage's 1949 String Quartet ("Seasons") came to mind. I find it dreamy and wistful, although it doesn't come close to offering as much to the ear and mind than the first quartets.

Anyway the Black Box disc remains an attractive proposition for those who'd want all three quartets on a single disc. The first two remain Volans' most entertaining and approachable quartets, and while overall the Kronos' interpretation may be preferable, the Duke still lets you hear the fascinating beauty of the music.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice quartets by an honest composer Feb. 26 2007
By scarecrow - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I like these latter Quartets, but I doubt if I would listen a second time. Volans is a rare composer. His honesty has a nurturing quality if you ever hear him speak (Go to You Tube) of what he does, finding a context, knwos where he wants to go, and unashamed to be utilizing "other's materials" "cultures", or ones he claims to understand. Everyone likes to utilize accessible materials,it has become the only means to survive.Whether this makes for interesting culture, and useable saleable cultural products is another matter.

The genre of the Quartet now seems to be saturated beyond belief. Like the free market itself when a "buzz" a "hook" is found, something that has market potential everyone utilzes it, but very few can make something original about it.Perhaps originality is also a forgtten term, one who has gone from existence.

Volans listenes to much music and you hear it in these works, the rhytmic patternings gestures are entirely his own. Composers think they can simply adopt for themselves a popular lick or idea or concept and simply make money like everyone else. We do live in a free democracy !!? Why Not!. Volans studied for a time with Richard Toop and the Great Stockhausen,curious what with a sensibility of Volans (more cosmopolitan and ecumenical)would learn from so hard-boiled a music philosophy as Stockhausen? We learn from Volans that and (for a time) Stockhausen only listened to his own works, why should he listen to anyone else?, Volans saw this as retrogressive,conservative in that the creative mind becomes very one-dimensional,tunnel-visioned, and perhaps that's what is suggested promuligated in Stockhausen's massive opera LICHT.

Volans works within a post-modernist language here,he tries to skate smoothly, unperceptively within all the materials the post-modern comes to bear,like a merchant ship just docked, Volans goes on board to select what he needs from the globe. We don't mind it for Volans is a good composer very honest and straightforward on what he does, and where he thinks music should be. The genre of the "string quartet" I think has outlived its importance, it is time for a new genre to be utilized;(if one exists) Culture does pay a price in over-production, Walter Benjamin said someplace, and you simply cannot proceed with creative saturation points ad infinitum, ad nauseum really.As the titles suggests man is ultimatley a "hunter" a gatherer (well here of musical forms, shapes and materials). Volans work is really also unanalyzable,not good fodder for academia; really another virtue in my book; you can only place it in a creative context of the post-modern, what materials he uses, what subjects he is drawn toward. His South African roots are apparent but only if he makes them so, as in his earlier quartet "White Man Sleeps". Still these are nice works.

The various "Dances" are like a reaffirmation of a humanity lost I suppose some place. Writing singable melodies as well should spark rebellions against modernity. The finely honed layering of double stops is quite interesting. But you sense there is always a direct voice in place, a direct lyricism that never goes away or becomes compromised. That as well is a reaffirmation of a human means of communication.
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