This is a stunningly beautiful set of music, but it does seem that ECM became a bit too enamored of the concept. The core is two oboe quartets by Elliott Carter and Isang Yun, both dedicated to and performed by Heinz Holliger, one of the world's leading oboists. That was the logical core of a 1-disc Holliger release that would also include "A 6 Letter Letter" by Carter and "Piri" by the Korean composer, both solo pieces. But having assembled virtuosos Thomas Zehetmair on violin, Thomas Demenga on cello and Ruth Killius on viola, solo works by Carter were added, the "4 Lauds" for violin and "Figments 1 & 2" for cello, leading to the idea of a 2-disc set, one disc each for Carter and Isang Yun. So we end up with a lavish and expensive package.
However, as I said, all the music is superb. Keeping in mind that this is primarily a Heinz Holliger recording, I am thankful for it because otherwise who knows when or if I ever would have heard anything by Isang Yun (1917-1995), a Korean dissident whose career was mainly spent in Germany? Though he participated in the Darmstadt circle, his music is simpler than Carter's, influenced by Asian folk music, and Holliger's performances are lyrical and lovely, very much in the ECM tradition.
The Carter disc is top-notch chamber music. The 2001 "Oboe Quartet" is one of the best of Carter's streamlined late works, with sparkling, witty interchanges between the oboe and strings. The solo pieces for violin and cello are fascinating, scintillating. It is striking how the late Carter has come to embody a classical sensibility, a post-tonal Mozartian elan.