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Nicolas Bacri

String Quartets n°3, 4, 5, 6

The Psophos Quartet


String Quartet no 6 opus 97

1st movement. Adagio, Allegro fuocoso…
2nd movement. Adagio molto
Variazioni alla fuga. Allegro impetuoso, furioso…

String Quartet no 5 opus 57

Sonata. Mesto, Molto agitato
Elegia. Adagio lamentoso, estatico
Scherzo senza trio. Vivace molto agressivo...
Passacaglia. Adagio doloroso, dolcissimo

String Quartet no 4 opus 42

Omaggio a Beethoven
Prologo. Adagio in modo funebre, drammatico
Toccata. Tema, Citazioni,
Variazioni I, II, III
Epilogo (Lux Æterna). Largo meditativo

String Quartet no 3 opus 18

Esquisses pour un tombeau

Sound recording : Jean-Marc Laisné.
Recording at the lutherian church Saint-Marcel in Paris the 11, 12 and 13 april 2007.
Booklet : Bernard Fournier.

AR RE-SE 2007-1

Nicolas Bacri’s Quartets: A genuine, demanding exploration of the genre

Whatever the school or current to which they claim allegiance, contemporary composers may for the most part be classified according to two main esthetic trends. Many of them, perhaps a majority in our time, coin their style under the influence of spontaneism and according to the hedonistic drive that is characteristic of our consumer society; those are often wont to try to restore an idiom or writing methods that once were attractive to a relatively large audience of music lovers. Some others are dominated by a non-negotiable radicality and contend that artists must resolutely be the spearheads of society, even if that means cutting themselves from it, as long as it has not been able to incorporate the new codes that they put in place; these composers often claim the post-Webernian inheritance of integral serialism. However, this alternative does not account for the whole of the musical landscape, which is fortunate. Many artists continuously affirm their independence vis-à-vis both of these trends; they often do so by emphasizing expressiveness, without resorting to obvious effects or clichés, as do a number of neotonal composers with delight, and conversely, without prioritizing a totalitarian and total rationality at the expense of expressiveness.

Among those who seek a genuine, original path, Nicolas Bacri stands out by his thought process whose sincerity is authenticated not only by the artistic restlessness which drives him to continously wonder about the aims of his art and put into question his composition habits, but also by esthetic choices that appear as the necessary consequences of a musical reflection and practice – as opposed to the incidental fallout of ideological presuppositions. This is particularly noticeable in his quartet production.

Besides the intrinsic interest that lies in the six scores composed by Bacri for this genre, the composer’s progression throughout these work highlights his intellectual curiosity and his open-mindedness. While his theoretical book, Notes étrangères (“Stranger Notes”), expresses his thought on contemporary music, especially by his critical review of the role played by avant-gardes, his quartets fully bring about the underlying reflections on language, form and esthetics made by any contemporary composer confronted with the challenge of the quartet.

Few contemporary composers have spanned such a wide esthetic spectrum in the course of a comparatively short career, by looking both back to an ever more distant past and forward, towards a future that –maybe out of a concern for expressive clarity – builds itself in a quest for simplicity and purity. Nicolas Bacri has, indeed, been inspired by both Boulez and Scelsi, Webern and Shostakovich, Carter and Dutilleux. However his style is never plagued by eclecticism: each of his Quartets corresponds to a fully accepted stage of a coherent musical conception that leads the composer to “get closer to his own essence”, under “someone else’s” interiorized glance. While Picasso’s blue period renders cubism legitimate, by contrast, as an inner necessity.

Bacri’s post-Webernian experiences, which are led not only without reluctance, but with commitment, render legitimate the return to tonal writing, which in his case appears, not as a restoration, but as the end of a parenthesis that he had to open and that he felt compelled to close for himself, having experienced the dodecaphonic way as a dead end. Atonal, athematic, the First Quartet (1980) dedicated to Michel Philippot may remind us of Carter’s Second, whereas the Second is reminiscent of Webern, including in its title (Five Pieces, 1982). The Third (1985-1989) explicitly refers itself to Zemlinsky and the Fourth (1995) to Beethoven. The Fifth (1997) returns to more classical (Sonata) and even to older (Passacaglia) forms, while also hinting at Bartók. The Sixth (2005-2006) confirms this influence but also opens new prospects.

Third Quartet, opus 18

“Esquisses pour un tombeau” (“Sketches for a Tomb”)
Composed between 1985 and 1988, reviewed in 1989, dedicated to Frédéric Martin, published by Durand in 1992.
Duration: 8 min.

With the Third Quartet, we enter a whole new universe and the work, which is even briefer than the previous ones, is placed under a quite different patronage, as it is written in Memoriam Alexandre Zemlinski. Its three uninterrupted movements are funereal in character, as can be seen by their titles (Stele, Deploration, Meditation), and through this atmosphere the work affirms its kinship to the esthetics of a Mitteleuropa impregnated with Mahlerian resonances, just as Zemlinsky’s Second Quartet. The lines from Shakespeare’s The Tempest quoted at the beginning of the work – “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep” – confirm the metaphysical inspiration of this music, but also may, by association with the signifier, draw our attention to another dimension of musical discourse which Bacri, then under the shock of his encounter with Scelsi, discovers. We are made of the same stuff as dreams, and so is music. Thus, in this quartet, beyond the ever-present logic of the discourse, Bacri discovers the “life of the sound matter as such”. Without resorting to microtonality or to the technique of glissandi, which are alien to him, he listens to sound and its resonances, with long prolonged notes that open up to all kinds of iridescences.

Fourth Quartet, opus 42

« Omaggio à Beethoven »
Composed between 1989 and 1995, dedicated to the Lindsay Quartet, who premiered it, published by Durand in 1995.
Duration: 21 min.

After Bartók in his Sixth Quartet, Walton in his First Quartet, and more recently, Tippett and Schnittke in their Fourth (1978) and Third (1983) Quartets (to cite two of the best-known precedents), Nicolas Bacri takes Beethoven’s Great Fugue as an argument and even as the subject matter for his Fourth Quartet. But his aim is different from that of his predecessors. Not unlike Richard Strauss in his Metamorphoses, Bacri confronts one of the greatest pages in history and unfolds a meditation which, beyond its sometimes somber, at other times violent expressive color, seems to interrogate the timeless modernity of the masterpiece he draws his inspiration from. As this happens, his own style breaks free from modality to ground itself on eternal values, as implied in the Epilogo which bears the subtitle Lux Æterna and is the finale of this work conceived in three movements without interruption.

By its architecture – two mainly lyrical movements in a slow or moderate tempo surrounding a rhythmical, vivid movement with sharp or percussive features and an energetic, at times almost savage character –, this Quartet may appear as a formal, expressive reinterpretation of Bartók’s Second Quartet. The Hungarian composer’s central Scherzo, impregnated with folkloric accents, is replaced in Bacri’s Quartet by a movement titled Toccata and entirely woven with often resilient quotations: almost permanent quotations, during more than three hundred bars, of the main subject of the Great Fugue, followed by quotations from the second movement of Shostakovich’s 15th Quartet.

The first panel of the triptych constituted by this Fourth Quartet is an Adagio, in modo funebre prologue (Track 8), of a meditative character, whose lyrically deplorative melodic line is mainly entrusted to one or the other of the extreme parts (first violin, cello), in an environment which is both dramatized by powerful accents and made pathetic by the recurrence of a plaintive motif in descending minor second, first introduced in a dramatic way by the cello (12th bar [1’06]), then taken over with a poignant sweetness by the second violin (13th bar [1’15]) and the viola (21st bar [2’23]). This motif transforms itself into the argument for a dialogue between the second violin and the viola (25th bar [3’01]) which unfolds in the space that is left vacant between the extreme parts as they introduce, two octaves apart from each other, a grave chant in the manner of Shostakovich (24th bar [2’52]). When this chant dies (30st bar [3’40]), the plaintive dialogue progressively spreads to the four parts, until a tempo acceleration brings about a dramatic section (37th bar [4’34]) where the four homophone instruments play with their full force in an actual explosion. After that everything becomes quieter; the theme from the Great Fugue emerges (47th bar [5’16]), though rather impregnated with the mysterious character it has – under a similar shape – at the beginning of the Opus 132. Starting in the low register, the motif soars towards a diaphanous high register where the movement ends in an evanescent pianissimo.

The Toccata (Track 9) that immediately follows creates, in a very Beethovenian way, a tone contrast, with its unexpected fortissimo, its Allegro risoluto tempo and its sudden harshness. This Toccata is structured in three parts, like the Quartet, and starts with a progression towards the Great Fugue, a few motifs of which are distinguishable as sketches which only appear in their full light after the 102nd bar (1’30), it being the beginning of the second part, entitled Citazioni by Bacri. It is a series of contrasted fragments which correspond to rewritings of certain moments of the Great Fugue, whether it be quotations or new developments from Beethoven’s material or postures. After a first new interpretation (158th bar [2’39]) of Beethoven’s scattered coda followed by a substantial development, Bacri proposes a second one (292nd [4’40] and following bars), each fragment having expressive characterizations that are a reference to Berg’s Lyrical Suite (Misterioso, Giocoso, Estatico). A transition (321st bar [5’26]) built on a more un-Beethovenian structure leads without interruption to Shostakovich’s universe, represented by a motif from the Serenade (second movement) of his Fifteenth Quartet that is used as material for a theme and three variations. In order to structure this theme (336th bar [6’]), Bacri superimposes an energetic drive which is a stylistic reminder of the one which structures the Russian composer’s Serenade (series of crescendos on one note) (2) with white-hot, hammered elements drawn from Beethoven’s forge as they appear in the various parts of the Great Fugue. As for the theme, whereas Shostakovich’s spelled out the twelve sounds of a series, Bacri’s takes over in a transposition the notes from the main theme of the Great Fugue. Each of the three following variations widens the space of the theme in respect to the previous one; from each one of them to the next, the discourse is amplified and made more intense, and the textures are made more dense.

A sonata form of sorts, with two themes and a long coda, but no development, the final Epilogo (Track 10) is a very somber page, to the extent that the Lux Æterna conjured up in its title seems to be a kind of black sun shining in the depths of a restless mind. The first theme is a gloomy choral whose line, interrupted by silences, is of an oppressed character. The melody of the second theme (426th bar [2’15]) is entrusted to the first violin and overlooks a homophonous texture. It stirs with an attempt to lyricism, but to a depressive one. The reexposition (445th bar [4’13]) somewhat skews the choral and gives it an almost screeching quality, while magnifying the second theme (455th bar [5’10]) which keeps its neuralgic color but acquires a kind of nobleness which goes on into the coda (470th bar [6’55]).

Fifth Quartet, opus 57

Commissioned by the Conseil regional du Centre and Équinoxe, Scène nationale de Châteauroux.
Composed during the summer of 1997, dedicated to the Danel Quartet, written in the memory of Thierry Mobillon, published by Durand in 1997.
Duration 25 min.

Just as the Fourth, the Fifth Quartet (1997) draws a great shape, which is no longer an arch but a fairly classical sonata architecture in four movements with a cyclical element. The first movement, precisely called Sonate, is faithful to the great tradition of the genre, through its structure as well as its character of two alternating, contrasted landscapes. A section dominated by melody through which runs a dream-like lyricism opposes itself to a rhythmic section which conjures up a harsh pugnacity. The second movement, Élégie, is the heart of the work and unfolds a poignant meditation around the remembrance of a dead friend in whose memory the Quartet was written. Follows a Scherzo sans Trio which sweeps away all the dismal ideas in a sound whirlpool. These ideas emerge again, but in another shape, in the final Passacaille, an Adagio doloroso whose variations progressively introduce something sweeter, indeed appeased and restrained, even though the phantoms of sadness and abandonment reappear at the end, until a funeral march of sorts concludes the quartet in a dismal atmosphere.

The first movement (Track 4) starts with a Mesto (sad) in a slow tempo, where the first theme appears, an obsessive, quite somber figure of pianissimo beats in the low register, upon which a very tuneful piano espressivo line of Fauré-like sweetness unfolds, played by the violin. The second theme (32nd bar [58”]) is played on a suddenly brisk tempo, in a forte nuance, and is almost hammered, with an agitated expression (sharp rhythms, large melodic gaps, broad glissandi, etc.). It comes as a clear contrast with the beginning of the movement: an outburst of effervescence and violence in an otherwise sad but also calm and peaceful universe. Without any transition the development begins (Affanato, 56th bar [1’23]). Here a new interpretation of the first theme finds itself contaminated, as it were, by the agitation of the second theme. Then, fragments of variable length which find their origin in one or the other of the thematic universes described above, are played next to one another, sometimes violently colliding with each other, as in the confrontation between two Martellato inflessibile bars in the fortissimo nuance (73rd bar [1’41]) and two and a half piano subito bars where muffled beats, as in the beginning of the movement, underlie a fluid motif of legato arpeggi (75th bar [1’44]). These oppositions are also visible in the expressive categories, as is demonstrated by the sudden coupling of a Doloroso episode (121st bar [2’58]) to a Grazioso (110th bar [2’25]). After a reexposition which interprets the first theme anew in a quicker tempo than that of the exposition, on a more stable rhythm and in a completely different character (Appassionato, 128th bar [2’50]), the movement finishes with a coda (182nd bar [3’43]) that takes on the shape of another development.

In full accordance with its title, the Élégie (Track 5) sounds as a melancholy complaint to sing the remembrance of the friend who passed away, Thierry Mobillon, in a fitting way. His name letters correspond – thanks to a particular alchemy – , with the exception of the T, the Y and the N, to the notes that make up the main theme of the movement initially played by the viola. The first part of this Adagio lamentoso is of an ABA’ form and starts with a three-part canon (viola, cello, first violin) on this theme. The second violin starts playing before the first (15th bar [1’06]) and draws a lyrical counterpoint of sorts, initially in the high register, while the discourse grows more dramatic and intense until a fortissimo apex (24th bar [1’52]). From there, it becomes calmer, leading to the central part titled Estatico (32nd bar [2’18]) which unfolds in the pianissimo region, with a tempo that slows down until the evanescent soliloquy of the first violin, Liberamente (lentissimo, 51st bar [4’05]). The reexposition A’ (55th bar [4’30]), very different from the first part, takes on the shape of a “dismal” choral in whose environment a melodic line unfolds, as a sort of shadow to the initial theme, successively played by the cello and the first violin. Finally, the four parts are brought together in a homophonous discourse which grows powerful and intense, then falls into a blank sparseness, a musical “no man’s land” as it were, which serves as a transition towards the Scherzo which immediately follows.

The absence of a trio in this scherzo (Track 6) – though this is compensated by a repeat (R) of the first part – does not only respond to a formal choice; it stems from the expressive necessity of a progression which cannot deal with the addition of a section made from other musical material. The movement, which in some respects reminds the listener of Bartók, starts in the atmosphere of certain nocturne musical pieces of the Hungarian composer, with little noises which dart off different points in the space (79th bar [0’00/2’50 R]). Then the music is seized with a kind of rhythmic frenzy which after expressing itself with some brutality (Agressivo, 104th bar [43”/3’31 R]), calms down, fades into a short quote of the theme of the Élégie (124th bar [1’22]), after which the effervescence is back, becomes tense (Nervoso, (130th?bar [1’37]), Ritmico molto, (138th bar [1’49]), even dramatic (Drammatico, 149th bar [2’09]), and finally is overcome with a kind of acidic sarcasm (Beffardo, con acidità, 162nd bar [2’32/3’54 R]) based on repeated formulas. After a parcellary repeat (R) of most of these sections (the episodes of calm and return to effervescence are skipped), the conclusion of the movement which follows the second occurrence of the Beffardo sequence explores new territories using the same elements as in the beginning (the nocturnal noises), entirely played pizzicato, in the vicinity of the piano nuance with a mysterious character (Misterioso, 183rd bar[4’23]). This is broken by a brief, final crescendo on three notes that leads to a powerful fortissimo.

Written Adagio doloroso, the finale starts in a misty atmosphere, muffled by the muted playing of the instruments. From there a melancholy phrase emerges on the first violin, some of whose elements serve as a thematic basis to the following passacaglia (11th bar [52’’]). The argument of this passacaglia is played at the bass, as required by this form, and consists in an eleven-note motif, taken from the initial phrase of the first violin and played pizzicato without changes in rhythm. In part A of this movement which throughout the variations of the passacaglia deploys three sections (ABA’), this motif is repeated twelve times without any alteration by the cello, first a cappella, then overshadowed by the successive appearance of the three instruments which weave increasingly complex textures and change the light, the intensity and therefore the expression. The discourse is initially rather dismal, pegged to the low register (the first entrance is that of the viola [second variation, 16th bar, 1’13]) while the pizzicato punctuation sounds like a knell. It then becomes livelier, progresses towards the high register and grows increasingly lyrical.

In the central B section (Dolcissimo, 75th bar [4’49]), the passacaglia motif is reduced to its first four notes and caught in an iterative process of ascent, backed on to the counterpoint of the intermediate parts, while the first violin deploys above it a flowing continuum made of a quick, light figure which hovers in the high register come un soffio (like a breath). A transition titled Lugubre (91st bar [5’49]) brings back the passacaglia motif in its entirety, now played by the second violin, and leads to the final A’ part whose two sections Disolato (97th bar [6’12]) – built on a reduction of the passacaglia motif – and Mesto (113th bar [7’17]), which reintroduces the initial theme of the first movement in a cyclical manner, use different types of writing than that of the previous episodes (respectively unison, then melody accompanied by beat motifs).

Sixth Quartet, opus 97

Commissioned by Musique nouvelle en liberté for the 2005 Grand Prix lycéen des Compositeurs.
Composed in 2005, dedicated to Jacques Boisgallais and the Psophos Quartet, published in 2006 (Chant du Monde).
Duration: 14 min.

With his Sixth Quartet (3), Bacri moves on from the architecture in four movements used in the Fifth Quartet to an integrated architecture, with three uninterrupted movements, a sonata form of sorts preceded by an introduction, a fugue theme which is the base for a short slow movement and variations on that theme. The writing and esthetic choices of this piece show continuity with the previous works, especially through the clear will for structure and the firm commitment to a discursive logic at the service of an expressiveness focused on two main poles which the composer ceaselessly explores and interrogates, namely reflexive, often somber gravity and the liberating force of vital energy. The quartet starts with an Adagio (Track 1) which progressively emerges from silence in two waves of chords that take shape and amplify progressively (intertwining, crescendo). From there emerges a meditative phrase introduced by the viola and prolonged by the second violin. A new, more ample deployment of chords (15th bar [43’’]) leads to the Allegro fuocoso (24th bar [1’04]) whose theme, featuring diverse rhythmic figurations, leaps forward with impetus at the two violins which play in imitation and are soon supported by the two bass instruments in a thick counterpoint. The instruments unite in a homophonic way to give more strength to a motif labelled brutale (37th bar [1’17]) which is used as a transition to a second, more lyrical thematic group divided into two entities, Poco sostenuto (41st bar [1’22]) and Tempo giusto (un poco solemne, 49th bar [1’38]). This last entity starts up as a supple, passionate expressive vibrato, then grows stiff and climbs to a screeching high register with a torrent of tremolos that lead to an identical repeat (67th bar [2’08]). The development deals successively with the universe of each of the two themes and is followed by an abridged reexposition (158th bar [4’13]), which is harsher than the exposition and leads to a slow Adagio molto movement (185th bar, Track 2 [0’00]) which can be construed as a final development: taking as a basis the musical material of the introduction, it amplifies it at length according to a germination technique which conjures up new lyrical topics. A transition (Misterioso, 222nd bar [2’20]) building on the same elements leads to the third movement, Variazioni alla fuga (240th bar, Track 3 [0’00]), which immediately follows.

In order to introduce the theme on which the variations will be built, Bacri summons the four homophonic instruments in a double string fortissimo discourse which hammers a beat rhythm; this motif will then be the starting point for the subject of the fugue, first spelled out by the second violin. Composite to the point of syncretism, this subject combines the rhythmic element, first with a brief figuration which derives from the fuocoso theme in the previous movement, then with a broad lyrical motif. Apart from its fugue-like idiom, the originality of this thematic entity lies in its division into fragments which are all written as fugues and unfold according to various methods (changes in the order of appearance of the instruments, for instance) and original expressive strategies: growing intensity until a furioso for the first fragment, deployment into a passionate espressivo for the second one (264th bar [24”]), long furtivo before a brief increase in intensity and a homophonic conclusion for the third one (309th bar [1’07]). The first variation (318th bar [1’15]) leads us through contrasted landscapes, ranging from the Giocoso (328th bar [1’25]) to the Serio (339th bar [1’36]). The second variation (394th bar [2’29]) plays the role of a slow movement and expresses fairly gloomy feelings (Doloroso, 402nd bar [2’37]; Tragico, 421st bar [3’06]) which are however conjured up with a range of sweet tones (dolce cantabile, 412nd bar [2’51]). In these two variations, some reminiscences of the Great Fugue, although more remote than in the Fourth Quartet, are to be found at times (for instance in variation 1, Drammatico, 350th bar [1’46] and variation 2, Quasi cadenza, 432nd bar [3’29]). The third variation (440th bar [3’59]) brings back the energetic vivaciousness of the theme and develops it in a more homophonic way despite a few imitations. It then leads to a fierce coda (468th bar [4’28]).

In this quartet, Bacri seems to keep away from the esthetics of post-modernity, especially through his fondness for quotations and collages. The expressive choices are certainly not without kinships with what can be found in Bartók’s or Shostakovich’s quartets, but this does not prevent the composer from affirming a personal style which Gérard Condé rightly describes as “headstrong and inspired” but which can be lyrical and profound as well.

Bernard Fournier
Translation: Alexandre Escorcia and Jennifer Arenson-Escorcia

1. Nicolas Bacri, Notes étrangères, Séguier, 2004.
2. One image of this gesture already appeared a little before the end of the first part of the initial movement (98th bar [1’25]).
3. The Seventh Quartet opus 101, titled Variations sérieuses, was composed in 2006 for the 2007 Bordeaux international String Quartet Contest.

The Press covers it !

« Born in France in 1961, Nicolas Bacri has ploughed a lone furrow, assiduously avoiding allegiance to any current group of composers. Moving easily between tonality and atonality, the music is undoubtedly of our time, yet can be viewed as a historical continuation from Bartók. This disc covers the 16 years from 1989, and presents Bacri's rich store of tonal colours and interesting rhythmic patterns that offer the newcomer a key to unlocking his musical world. The works present a formidable technical challenge to the young French based Psophos Quartet, particularly Sixth Quartet, in which the music dashes around the instruments in a feverish state of emotional anxiety. By contrast, the Fifth Quartet is often slow-moving, the long, flowing lines of the second movement and final Passacaglia relying on slight variants of quiet dynamics. The Fifth uses Beethoven's Grosse Fuge as its starting point, with quotations from the original within its physically powerful frame, and the work's conclusion depicts the end of the time. It is very different from the disturbing harmonies that pervade the Third Quartet, written in memory of Zemlinsky. (...) Accuracy of intonation is at times open to question, but the deep commitment of the Psophos players, as they hurl themselves into the frenetic moments, cannot be doubted. Nor can their ability to create beauty in static passages be in any doubt – here the solo instruments show individual excellence. The recording is clean and clinical in texture and balance. »

The Strad, April 2008, David Denton

« The 2007 release of Nicolas Bacri: String Quartets Nos. 3,4,5,6 finds Nicolas Bacri as one of the outstanding figures in contemporary French music, a composer who began his career in the 1980s as a serialist. While he hasn't exactly turned his coat inside out, Bacri is hardly a card-carrying member of the fraternity at this juncture – his music is clearly designed to elicit specific emotional responses and has a natural sense of flow and development, not to mention ample excitement and drama. There is never a sense anywhere in this music where the composer is saying, "Here are the elements the music is made out of, and there – is the result." Bacri's music is the sum total of contact with a wide range of influences and impulses, yet like Henri Dutilleux, his own voice is placed at the fore. While Bacri has garnered acclaim for his work in a wide variety of genres, his cycle of string quartets – which remain in progress; String Quartet No. 7 having been premiered in 2007 - have elicited particular praise among. European critics. French label Ar Re-Se has made available Bacri's Quartets Nos. 3 through 6, composed between 1985 and 2006, with the group Psophos Quartet. This is a fortunate match of artist and composer, as the Psophos plays as a matter of routine the quartets of composers to whom Bacri's music can be compared at least superficially – Berg, Bartók, Dutilleux and Webern are all in their standing repertoire. Founded in 1997, the Psophos is a young quartet, and they play Bacri's music with all the strength, aggression and passion of youth. For those who like contemporary music in the "classic" twentieth-century style, yet prefer it not too aerodynamic and abstract, nor too minimal and cloying, Ar Re-Se's Nicolas Bacri: String Quartets Nos. 3,4,5,6 will be like a breath of fresh air. Moreover, anyone who loves string quartets really ought to hear what fireworks the Psophos Quartet can set off; this disc is both very thrilling and intellectually satisfying. »

All Music Guide, April 2007, David N. Lewis

« After this recording of four of Bacri’s Quartets, among which the third and the sixth, which were completed in 1986 and 2006, the Seventh Quartet, commissioned for the latest Bordeaux Competition, will hopefully be recorded soon as well. (…) Steeped in an ample tonality, the language is constantly oscillating between torment and bitterness, without ever settling down on one of these moods. Its eloquence comes from this back and forth movement which makes this piece akin to the post-romantic universe of the Transfigured Night or Webern’s Langsamer Satz (especially in the first bars of the Fifth Quartet). In these brilliant pages dedicated to his favourite genre, the quartet, Bacri has found the right balance between a preserved personal language and the elaborated ideas which were at times missing in his earlier work. A melodic and harmonic inventiveness within a steadily thought-out but ever light silhouette make this work a success. In the Prologo of the Fourth Quartet, a swaying harmony generates a descending motif. The development then superimposes the harmony and the motif : the Leitmotiv is exposed to the changing beam of the chords, until it turns into the theme of Beethoven’s Great Fugue, which is the backbone of this hommage. The Psophos Quartet are familiar with Bacri’s music and excel in rendering its haze of sounds and its plaintive themes as well as the fury that makes these imagination-filled pages electric. »

Diapason, January 2008, Nicolas Baron


CD produced with the support of Mécenat Musical Société Générale.