Peter Gregson, renowned composer, cellist and Deutsche Grammophon recording artist, is set to present his sixth studio album, Quartets: Three and Four. The album is a follow-up from his 2016/2017 EPs Quartets: One and Quartets: Two, completing the conceptual cycle the composer set out for himself of creating a “quartet of quartets”.
The first two EPs, recorded at AIR Studios in London, saw the composer move from an entirely acoustic body of work in Quartets: One, to adding synthesisers as an extra instrumental layer on Quartets: Two. The new album, which encompasses the final two quartets, sees Gregson take his ideas on sound and recording further with the first half of the album – Quartets: Three – ingraining even more electronic effects to create rich sonic textures, and the latter half – Quartets: Four – returning to an all-acoustic set-up and his original classical soundworld. The album’s first single released on September 23rd, Sequence (Eight) from Quartets: Three, is a wistful piece that illustrates Gregson’s mastery in using electronic effects that enhance the cello yet feel so natural that they are almost imperceptible. Quartets: Three and Four were recorded at Paul Epworth’s The Church Studio and Abbey Road Studio 3 respectively. The album will be released on the 11th of November 2022 digitally, together with the release of a deluxe album containing all four quartets on CD and vinyl.
“I have been planning this “quartet of quartets” since 2016; I had been back-to-back on commissioned projects and wanted to carve out some space to write music for myself with no brief, no deadline, no rules. It was also important to me that I wasn’t writing for myself, so as to avoid any possible shorthand laziness. The String Quartet is a mighty instrument in itself, an incredible sound and deliciously expressive medium for which to write with an unparalleled repertoire going back hundreds of years.
With this new music in Quartets: Three, I wanted to explore the idea of ‘natural electronics’, a breathing sonic landscape where the natural warmth of the string quartet and the potentially cold world of the electronics world can co-exist. The electronics I chose for this body of work, the reverbs, delays, harmonizers, synthesisers, tapes, were all physically present and being recorded just as carefully as the quartet themselves, all being committed to tape at the same time. None of this music was recorded with a ‘click track’, so the musicians were hearing the electronics in their headphones and responding to the space we were creating, further pushing the sonics into new territory.
The music in Quartets: Four was written for the Carducci Quartet and with it, I wanted to really develop my understanding of pure quartet writing: both the exploration of the tributary lines, (individual violin, violin, viola, cello voices), and as one unified voice (the quartet). The title Three Parallels refers ultimately to the construction of the music where, at any given point, there are three voices in the quartet working together and one exploring its own path, only for that rogue voice to be joined by another voice spinning off on its own to the next phrase. The music is outwardly melodic and tonal, but not to be confused with comfortable. There are subtle details inside the quartet, ripples in the water, which develop and mutate over the three movements. Music on a page is nothing without performers to bring it to life, and I am indebted to the Carducci Quartet, Andrew Neubauer, and Penny Wright for enabling this work to exist.”