Homunculus / Kamus Quartet –  Composer:  Esa-Pekka Salonen,  György Ligeti,  Benjamin Britten – Kamus String Quartet – Alba Records

Three contemporary string quartets stunningly played and recorded!

Homunculus / Kamus Quartet –  Composer:  Esa-Pekka Salonen,  György Ligeti,  Benjamin Britten – Kamus String Quartet – Alba Records SACD/Hybrid  Catalog #: 409  – (01/05/2018)  TT: 62:00 ****

This new multi-channel release, which includes the world premiere recording of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s string quartet Homunculus, and also includes music by Ligeti (String Quartet no.1 (Métamorphoses Nocturnes) and Britten’s String Quartet no.3 Op.94. It’s a varied collection, but I think the selections work well together.

Salonen, born in Helsinki, Finland, studied horn and composition at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, as well as conducting with Jorma Panula. He’s more well known for his conducting duties but he has a substantial body of work that is noteworthy, including Homunculus which is heard on this disc.

None of the works presented here could be considered mainstream, and I think that is part of the appeal of this disc. The Britten is seldom performed, and the Ligeti is from early in his career and often passed over.

The recording is excellent, and in multi-channel the music comes alive. The recording was done in a large church, and the acoustics are warm. Musicians are up front spread across the two front speakers, while the other channels are used for ambiance and that nice ‘hall sound’.

Over the last few months I’ve been pleased to sample many offerings of contemporary music which I was afraid might evaporate as smaller labels struggle, but in fact there seems to be a renaissance of superb recordings and performances in increasing numbers. This disc is a good example of that trend.

—Mel Martin

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