"Matangi delivers a compelling and intriguing recital that captivates the audience."

On November 25, 2023, at De Mythe in Goes, the Matangi Quartet delivered an unforgettable evening to the audience. The program, titled "OUTCAST," pays tribute to composers from Soviet Russia and Ukraine. The compositions of Shostakovich (1906-1975), Schnittke (1934-1998), and Silvestrov (1937-) did not sit well with the regimes under which they lived.

Avant-garde (modern) music with a veiled message that remains relevant today. The gripping music permeates and captivates the listener, conveying the pain and fear of the composers. Kudos to the Matangi Quartet for maintaining a taut narrative and performing with great integrity as a cohesive unit.

The rendition of Alfred Schnittke's String Quartet No. 3 immediately made an impact. This through-composed piece, full of contrasts and unresolved tension in a classical polystylistic style, is highly expressive and plays with human emotions, ranging from confusion and hysteria to despair and depression. Schnittke skillfully utilizes musical modules from Lassus, Beethoven, and Shostakovich, deconstructing and reconstructing them. Technically adept and emotionally overwhelming, the cutting tones above the flowing dark lines demand attention. The Agitato segment conveys the desperation and intensity of wartime violence, with dissonances that sting. Occasional moments of calm are swiftly disrupted by violent flares. The music sounds compelling and heart-wrenching. The Pesante, with strong pizzicato and mournful lines, concludes with a poignant phase dripping with despair.

Matangi made an excellent choice to follow this with Valentin Silvestrov's one-movement String Quartet No. 1 from Ukraine. The musicians provided a highly personal interpretation due to the free interpretation of note values. The melody, carried by the first violin, was sonorously supported by the others. The poetic and melancholic music evoked an evening scene in nature for me, with peaceful moments by the riverbank. Everywhere, lights flickered, and the water flowed peacefully, interrupted by broad movements and even a turbulent passage where tension turned into chaos. However, the soothing calm returned, reminiscent of the beautiful accompaniment to Richard Strauss's song "Morgen."

After the intermission, the spotlight was on Dmitri Shostakovich. First, the four string players—Maria-Paula Majoor (violin 1), Sedna Heitzman (violin 2), Karsten Kleijer (viola), and Arno van der Vuurst (cello)—performed two short pieces: "Elegie" (a slow aria from the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk) and "Polka," a humor-filled, rhythmically strong piece.

The recital concluded with String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110, where Shostakovich incorporated his memories of the destruction of Dresden. He referred to the work (1960) as an autobiographical quartet.

It begins with Shostakovich's musical signature (D.SCH = D, E flat, C, and H), presented by the cello and then the other string players. A slow section full of question marks, but that lasts only momentarily. In the Allegro, the music enters unusually forcefully, featuring the familiar Jewish theme, and the emotions of melancholy and violence contend with each other. The anger due to violence and war is palpable in the Allegretto. The macabre image of the many dead on a battlefield becomes particularly intense with the cutting, fervently bowed tones resembling thunderclaps. The snippet of Dies Irae and the mournful Largo dissolve into the slow final movement that stood out for the genuine way Matangi (with mutes) concluded this work morendo. The delayed applause after the last note is evidence of the astonishment. This performance was executed brilliantly.

The Kamermuziek Zeeland Foundation took a bold step with this concert, commendable in these times, and those present will likely remain grateful for a long time. A recital by Matangi, in my opinion, should be programmed more frequently.

Jeanette Vergouwen-de Caluwe

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