The Washington Post

Attacca Quartet album review, ‘Fellow Traveler’

The group Attacca Quartet will perform in the Washington, D.C. area. (Attacca Quartet)
“Fellow Traveler: The Complete String Quartet Works of John Adams”

Kindred spirits: Balanescu Quartet,
Kronos Quartet, Brooklyn Rider

Show: Wednesday at the Library of Congress, Coolidge Auditorium. Show starts at 8 p.m. 202-397-7328. Free; advance tickets required.

Contemporary composer John Adams, best known for “Nixon in China,” sometimes follows the paths of such “minimalist” forerunners as Steve Reich and Philip Glass. But unlike them, Adams never formed his own ensemble. He has composed instead for traditional (if forward-thinking) groups such as the Attacca Quartet, which makes its recording debut with “Fellow Traveler: The Complete String Quartet Works of John Adams.”

The album contains 2008’s complex “String Quartet”; the world-premiere recording of the 2007 title piece; and “John’s Book of Alleged Dances,” a 10-part suite from 1994. The last is the most playful, with inspirations ranging from Cuban to Appalachian and sometimes accompanied by pre-recorded percussion. One of the movements, “Pavane (She’s So Fine),” combines Reich, rock and Renaissance madrigal. All are played deftly and vigorously by the quartet, whose name is Italian for “attack.”

The driving “Fellow Traveler” is the most minimalist selection, although elements of that genre are present in “String Quartet,” a more cogent synthesis of 19th- and late-20th-century styles than many of Adams’s better-known works. For sheer fun, however, it’s hard to top such rollickingly eccentric jigs as “Dogjam” or “Hammer and Chisel.”

Mark Jenkins


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