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RETO BIERI & META4 – QUASI MORENDO / ECM New Series 2557

Music of Johannes Brahms, Gérard Pesson and Salvatore Sciarrino
Reto Bieri: clarinet
Meta4: Antti Tikkanen: violin
Mina Pensola: violin
Atti Kilpeläinen: viola
Tomas Djupsjöbacka: violoncello

Quasi Morendo is Reto Bieri’s third appearance on ECM New Series and follows the 2011 solo clarinet album Contrechant (with music of Berio, Carter, Holliger, Eötvös, Sciarrino and Vajda) and a powerful performance of Galina Ustvolskaya’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano with Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Markus Hinterhäuser, issued in 2014. 

Contrechant was widely praised for both the Swiss clarinettist’s beauty of tone and his uncommon expressiveness with extended instrumental techniques. Quasi Morendo begins with a new exploration of one of the pieces featured on that first album, Salvatore Sciarrino’s Let Me Die Before I Wake (1982), reentering its “whisper-quiet sound world of harmonics, multiphonics and tremolandos” (as The Guardian described it) and making new discoveries. “How the sounds come about is a mystery even to me,” Bieri tells liner writer Roman Brotbeck. “With special grips, even slight changes in the approach to the sound, it is possible to create particular multiphonics; through breathing and blowing (a big difference!) I can influence these sounds in the finest degree.”

Reto Bieri is then joined by the Finnish string quartet Meta4 for a profound interpretation of Johannes Brahms’s Quintet op 115 (1891). Written late in his life, it was inspired by friendship with clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld. Brahms had planned to retire in 1890, but after hearing Mühlfeld play music of Weber, Mozart and Ludwig Spohr, he rededicated himself to composing to create works that count amongst the finest of his long career. From the liner notes: “The Clarinet Quintet is a swan song, a finale; gestures of closure dominate. Even the beginning has the effect of a coda. The strings intone a sinking elegiac melody over four bars, preparing the entrance on the clarinet.” The quintet often sounds freer, and more idyllic, than Brahms’s earlier chamber music, yet is one of his most meticulously constructed works. 
The album closes with French composer Gérard Pesson’s Nebenstück (1998), a ghostly re-arrangement of Brahms’s Ballade, Op. 10 No. 4. 

Reto Bieri was born in Zug, Switzerland, and grew up with Swiss folk music as an early inspirational source. He studied at the Basel Conservatory under François Benda, later with Charles Neidich at the Juilliard School in New York. Chamber music lessons with György Kurtág and Krystian Zimerman as well as encounters with the writer Gerhard Meier and the music educator Eberhard Feltz significantly influenced his work.

Bieri has played with numerous orchestras under distinguished conductors including Vladimir Fedoseyev, Kurt Masur, Dennis Russell Davies, Marc Foster, Andrew Litton and Kristjan Järvi. A dedicated chamber musician, he regularly performs with partners such as Heinz Holliger, Gidon Kremer, Sol Gabetta, Nicolas Altstaedt and Fazil Say, as well as with string quartets such as the Quatuor Ardeo (Paris), the Amaryllis Quartet (Cologne), the Bennewitz Quartet (Prague), the Szymanowski Quartet (Warsaw), the Borusan Quartet (Istanbul), the Quatuor Hermès (Paris), the Cuarteto Casals (Barcelona), and the Casal Quartet (Zurich). From 2014 to 2018, Reto Bieri directed the Davos Festival Young Artists in Concert, with the festival acquiring a new international profile under his leadership. Since 2012, he has been Professor for Chamber Music at the Hochschule für Musik Universität Würzburg.

The Meta4 Quartet was established in Finland in 2001, and has been widely acclaimed for its stylistic range, and won many awards. In 2004 the Meta4 took first prize at the Shostakovich International Competition for quartets in Moscow and in 2007 the first prize at the Haydn Competition in Vienna. The Quartet was chosen by the BBC as New Generation Artists for the period 2008 - 2010. Recently Meta4 received great recognition for its recordings of the chamber works of Kaija Saariaho, and for its participation in performances of her opera Only The Sound Remains, based around Ezra Pound’s translations of Noh plays. Meta4’s discography includes award-winning albums of Haydn and Shostakovich quartets.
 
CD includes liner notes by Roman Brotbeck in German and English 

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