East Hampton Star

Beautifully crafted miniatures, each gazing back at an iconic style or artist, while taking inventive delight in the myriad colours and interactions that have long made this combination of stringed instruments so singular.

— Donal Rosenberg. Gramophone Magazine

It was perhaps inevitable that Bruce Wolosoff would compose Songs Without Words, which is subtitled "18 Divertimenti for String Quartet". The New York-born composer grew up playing in an assortment of bands whose stylistic bents would become essential components in his creative voice.

In Songs Without Words, performed on this joyous Naxos disc by the Carpe Diem Quartet, Wolosoff takes those styles and runs blissfully with them, charging through jazz, rock, blues and many other musical genres with what one might easily call unbridled glee.

These are not simulations of traditional tunes arranged for the unlikely ensemble of string quartet. They are beautifully crafted miniatures, each gazing back at an iconic style or artist, while taking inventive delight in the myriad colours and interactions that have long made this combination of stringed instruments so singular.

Amid nods to Beethoven and Stravinsky, Wolosoff sat at a synthesizer improvising on pop tunes before tweaking them into something entirely different from the originals. The results send the quartet through terrain and techniques not usually encountered in their day-to-day experience.

The members of the Ohio-based Carpe Diem Quartet, which commissioned the collection, live up to its name by seizing every opportunity to animate and caress Wolosoff’s diverting brainstorms. They slide and wail, soar and stomp. The big question: do you really want to hear the whole shebang in one sitting, as you can on this recording? It may depend on where you’re seated, but the quick answer is—yes.

 
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