by Rachel Beaumont

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Hail, Anderson, hail!: JACK Quartet at the Wigmore Hall

JACK Quartet
Wigmore Hall
Stalls C15, £5 (under-35s)
11 April 2018
Wigmore page

Ferneyhough Dum Transisset
Anderson String Quartet no.3 (world premiere)
Marcos Balter Chambers
Amy Williams Richter Textures

A chord early on in the Anderson changed everything. My previous experience of his music had been dominated by the staggeringly dreary opera The Trojans, which I’ll tell you is not a good thing to be dominated by. But this chord made the bottom fall out of my stomach; it gave me that same momentous feeling when you realize something terrible is about to happen and it’s all your fault. From then until the end this quartet wrung me with music’s most extreme power, its mysterious chords, menacing folk elements and sheer furious volume tearing within me everything from the shivery waves of hearing a great singer to the inexplicable irrepressible tears that rise to a stalwart childhood hymn, packed into one terrifyingly entertaining quartet, invoking Britten, Xenakis, Birtwistle. It was brilliant.

Before the Anderson came Dum Transisset, a demure work of fleeting textures that is certainly pleasant enough. After the Anderson I wasn’t really of a mind to listen to anything that wasn’t the Anderson, but I pulled myself together enough to acknowledge the Balter had some fun needle-in-the-ears ideas while being also strangely static and the Williams was quite entertaining, particularly when it happened to chime with my persistent mental re-playing of the Anderson. I think the JACK should have stuck with their original programme and left the Anderson to the end – there’s really nothing that can follow it (although that would be an interesting investigation: Tetras?).

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