It's curious this new SONY release is priced as a CD-single. (I got mine from Amazon for $11.) It offers a rather generous 63' playing time.
I am not familiar with any of this music except for the quartet by Philip Glass, which piqued my interest. And since I have admired the Attacca Quartet in the past and the price was attractive, I decided to try it. But despite its title, it's one of the most depressing programs I can ever remember hearing.
The highlight is certainly the Glass 3rd Quartet. The booklet goes into detail about how this program came about and states the group looked far and wide to find companions for the Glass. And listening to this CD, it is obvious the Glass was the main attraction and all the rest are mere "fillers".
One wonders, though, why any of these pieces were chosen for an album titled "Of All Joys". The program opens and closes with works by Avo Part (Summa and Fratres) and all the rest are 16th-Century Renaissance madrigals. And all of them are extraordinarily dreary (including the two by Part). And for some reason the Attacca Quartet plays ALL of this music sans vibrato, increasing the gloom and despair.
And one also wonders why they looked so hard to find more music to fill the disc, when another Glass quartet - or two, or three - would have filled it nicely. And would have been infinitely more interesting and rewarding than what they found instead.
I read in the booklet that this CD is the group's "attempt to recapture the joy missed during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns". This is baffling for there is no joy here - not in the music, nor in the playing. The entire disc caused me to feel so blah and depressed I could barely get through it. Maybe if it were titled "For Those Lost" it might - might - make a little more sense.
SONY's recorded perspective is upfront and one-dimensional, emphasizing the mono-dynamic, expressionless playing. There is no escape from the relentlessly stark and desolate soundscape, which was difficult to endure.
I love the Attacca Quartet. Their recordings of music by Caroline Shaw, Michael Ippolito and John Adams are extraordinary. But this SONY disc is bewildering. It actually bothered me, it was such an unpleasant experience.