Huang Ruo’s hour-long passacaglia for strings, A Dust in Time , is a contemplative response to the composer’s experience of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Slow, measured, thoughtful and sincere, it offers a gravely beautiful, often moving refuge from the storm.

Del Sol String Quartet

Setting aside his sixth opera when social distancing rules confined him to his apartment, the Chinese-born, New York-domiciled Ruo turned instead to the confessional intimacy offered by the string quartet form. Inspired by Tibetan Buddhist sand mandalas, A Dust in Time mimics their intricately mirrored designs of coloured sand even as they resist their wind-blown impermanence. Rising to, then retreating from, a sunburst of luminous colour at its centre, its palindromically-structured 13 parts eventually return to where they started in more muted, shadow-cast tones.

The work’s therapeutic intentions are underlined by the sensitive, judiciously paced playing of the San Francisco-based Del Sol Quartet who helped develop it in Zoom collaborations with Ruo. And by the inclusion with the CD release of a book...