Hayden Wayne’s Nuzerov Quartets are
a rather peculiar and idiosyncratic set of modern string quartets
with heavy rock influences. Driving rhythms and frequent syncopations
underpin much of the writing, and the cello is given the same
textural treatment as a bass guitar.
The quartets are, at first, remarkably charming
– tamed, civilised snippets of rock and roll, if you like. The
concept of writing fundamentally in a classical form, and adding
the rock element as an effect, is a unique and interesting one,
as most modern crossover experiments abuse classical music by
placing the emphasis firmly on the rock beats. Wayne, however,
is unafraid of gambling on the classical appeal of his work.
Sadly, the potential of the Nuzerov Quartets
is betrayed by Hayden Wayne’s obvious unfamiliarity with the
intricacies of classical composition, and the imagination and
variation that chamber music requires is lacking. Each quartet
follows a near-identical format, and although Quartet No.3
seems fresh and interesting, Quartets 4 and 5 contain
only more of the same. Despite copious catchy tunes, the lack
of proper development causes the novelty value of the classical-rock
fusion to quickly wear off.
Having said this, there are passages where
Wayne introduces welcome tangents, such as occasional folk-like
melodies, very effective unison passages (played with expert
precision by the Wallinger String Quartet) and a beautiful
haunting violin solo in the first movement of Quartet No.4.
It is all the more frustrating therefore, that these too fail
to develop; Wayne instead reverts back to his trademark rock
motifs. Over-repetition spoils other effective ideas too – the
unexpected hiatus that ends one of the movements in Quartet
No.3 is delightful and surprising. When it re-occurs on
a further 3 separate occasions it becomes a cliché.
Despite its obvious pitfalls, this disc is
nevertheless worth a listen, not least because of the superbly
precise and well-swung performance of the Wallinger Quartet.
Simon Hewitt Jones