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ALLA BREVE

April 25, 1993|TIMOTHY MANGAN

BOLCOM: String Quartet No. 10. JOHNSTON: String Quartet No. 9. NEIKRUG: String Quartet "Star's the Mirror." Stanford String Quartet. Laurel Record LR-847CD. This recording features recent quartets from American composers, all accessible and entertaining, but inventive, sophisticated and cosmopolitan as well. William Bolcom's Tenth String Quartet is a typically eclectic effort from him, set in styles from Haydn to Nancarrow. His 17-movement palindromic layout never suffers from a lack of focus though, as he contrasts these musics playfully and eventfully; it's a sampler with point. To his outgoing, minimalistic, Ninth String Quartet, Ben Johnston brings a peppering of microtonality, wheezy and piquant in effect. Neikrug's quartet, the most difficult of the three, is an all-things-Bartokian affair, filled with eerie musings, whispering pulsations and an urgent, dissonant lyricism. The Stanford String Quartet (the Bolcom and Johnston were commissioned for them) plays with impressive skill and conviction.

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