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Seven Steps

Brooklyn Rider

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Album Review

This may not look like it from the graphics, but it's a recording of Beethoven's "String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131," paired with a group of contemporary works, one of them collectively composed by the members of Brooklyn Rider themselves. The general idea of pairing repertory works with modern compositions with which they share some structural or philosophical analogue is a good one. And the Beethoven performance itself is very strong, notable in view of the fact that the mainstream-work performances have often been the weak point in the recordings of Brooklyn Rider's chief model, the Kronos Quartet. It takes the slow movements largely without vibrato, early music-style, and heightens the dynamic contrasts throughout, hoping to give the work a kaleidoscopic quality that links it to the two contemporary pieces. The title track is a sort of multi-stylistic suite, in seven sections, ranging from Baroque to klezmer, while Christopher Tignor's "Together into This Unknowable Night" features samples, percussion, and an AM radio, and examines the possible relationships between the strings and the electronic elements. All this is convincing as far as it goes. But the overall concept works less well, perhaps because the massive Op. 131 quartet was not the best pick for the project. "The idea of creating 'Seven Steps' was partially born out of the need to define a place where the labyrinth of Beethoven's colossal Op. 131 could work itself out guided by a spirit of free play rather than the heavy weight of the auteur's pen," the group members wrote. So be it, but an emphasis on sevens and on short sections in diverse styles doesn't quite suffice to knit this material together, something that even listeners who've come to the album from the pop side have noted. Still, the album is undeniably stimulating, and Beethovenians may be interested in the fresh performance of the "String Quartet No. 14" itself.

Customer Reviews

Modern Musicology Masters Master Maestro's Melancholy Masterpiece

Within this recording, Classical string quartet Brooklyn Rider have interpreted and captured the energy and spirit of Beethoven's often cited as most difficult to perform compositions. The two complementary original pieces that open the album meld perfectly, and set up the ears and mind for the journey ahead. An essential listen!

Big on the hype

Low on the goods. Brooklyn Rider sounds like they should be the next big thing, The new music piece is forgettable, and the attempt at improv is laughable. The Turtle Island 4tet they're not. The Beethoven was just bland beyond belief. I"d pass on this if I waz you. --Bz

Not very good

The recording is horrible. There is a lot of reverb - whether it's authentic or not is not clear, but it muddies the sound terribly. And the first violinist's tone isn't very stable; it's often off at the high notes. And, the overall feeling of the playing is that they're just phoning it in. If you want Beethoven, get the Takacs or Emerson recordings.

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Customer Ratings