American composer Jefferson Friedman's music has been called 'impossible to resist' by The New
York Times, and Sequenza 21 reports, '[Mr. Friedman] goes a lot further toward sustaining interest and
tension than composers twice his age (and with Pulitzer Prizes).' His work has been performed throughout
the United States and abroad, most notably at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall and Avery Fisher Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Columbia University's Miller Theatre, the Bowery Ballroom, (Le) Poisson Rouge, and the American Academy in Rome. Jefferson Friedman: Quartets includes pristine yet passionate recordings of the composer's second and third quartets, works that demand to be considered modern masterpieces.
The Baltimore-based experimental electronic duo Matmos contributes two mind-bending 'remixes' to this album, using the quartet recordings as source material. Known for their pop-leaning music concrete soundscapes, Matmos has come to define a new generation of 'found sound' artists. M. C. (Martin) Schmidt and Drew Daniel are the core members, but they frequently collaborate with other artists, including most notably Björk, So Percussion, and J Lesser.
Jefferson Friedman is a tough composer to pigeonhole, given his high-energy eclecticism and his penchant for free appropriation of both rock and classical conventions. He has an original, compelling voice as well as ideas that draw you in and make you want to see where he will take them; yet if you listen closely, his basic materials are essentially the same as those that his predecessors have used, only juxtaposed in different, often daring ways.
If you think of the two string quartets here, Mr. Friedman's Second (1999) and Third (2005), as neo-Romantic works, you won't be wrong, at least most of the time. Both begin with vigorous, hard-driven movements in a tonal if purposefully brash style, and they sound surprisingly conventional until Mr. Friedman veers off toward unusual byways of rhythm or timbre.
One odd turn in the Second Quartet is a slow movement that sounds oddly medieval at first, then melts into a lush, Romantic section that gives way in turn to a choralelike chordal section. Near the end of the Third Quartet's second movement, the players are asked to slide into their notes, creating an odd, spacey effect in dense passages. Yet from within that weird, slippery texture, a set of solid, repeating, consonant chords emerge, bringing the movement to an unusually eerie, slow finale.
The Chiara String Quartet has made these works centerpieces of its live repertory in recent seasons, and the vital performances reflect the players devotion to Mr. Friedman's work. In an original touch, New Amsterdam has included two remixes by Matmos, an electronic music group, which took passages from the quartet recordings and reconfigured them imaginatively by weaving in beats, drones and computer timbres, and making them into virtually new works. --New York Times, Allan Kozinn, August 25, 2011
These compelling essays in high-energy eclecticism have become Jefferson Friedman's signature works, thanks largely to the Chiara String Quartet's passionate advocacy. Both quartets have an essentially neo-Romantic frame, but Mr. Friedman heads in unexpected directions, with hints of neo-medievalism, modernist effects and occasional rock influences. The disc includes remixes - imaginative reconfigurations, with added beats, drones and computer timbres - by the electronica band Matmos. --New York Times, 2011 Music Gift Guide, Allan Kozinn
Jefferson Friedman is friends and colleagues with indie-classical fixtures like Nico Muhly, but his music quite definitely does not resemble theirs. There is very little in the way of glassy, narcotic repetition, or the incremental building and exploring of a single mood that characterizes a lot of his colleagues' work. These pieces are defiantly old-fashioned in the best possible sense: They could be string quartets written in the 20s. But something ineffably 'off' in the progression of voices signifies that Friedman is writing now. His songful quartets earnestly probe small-scale modern human emotions: nagging doubt, creeping unease, simmering anger. Anyone with a love of Rachel's could quite easily find their way around in here. On the second half of the disc, Matmos step in to perform their demented-forensic-surgeon routine, ripping the pieces up by their nerves and tendons, a squirm-inducing but fascinating listening experience. --Pitchfork, By Jayson Greene , February, 2012