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String Quartet No. 1 (1995)

Listen to excerpt:  

String Quartet (1995), I. - excerpt

Duration: 22 minutes



I. Intense, dramatic

II. Barbaric, driving; scherzando

III. Distant, sustained

Program Notes:

My String Quartet was written for the Maia Quartet in 1995 as part of a Guggenheim Fellowship project. The Maia Quartet premiered the work at Lincoln Center (Alice Tully Hall) on April 23rd, 1996. Other performances of the piece were also given in Baltimore, MD, Portland, OR, Houston, TX, and Japan. The quartet is in three movements (I. Intense, dramatic, II. Barbaric, driving; scherzando, III. Distant, sustained). The work is one of vital intensity, full of glissandi and pitch bends, and is influenced by the driving rhythms of rock and jazz music. The quartet begins with chordal clusters and dramatic unison gestures. This opening statement quickly gives way to lyrical, and somewhat mournful solo lines for the cello and viola, respectively. It is the contrast between the opening statement (furious, intense music) and the second statement (lyrical, mournful music) which forms the basis for the entire first movement. All of the music we hear afterwards is a different derivation of one of these two statements. The second movement, full of constant motion, is a driving scherzo, which makes use of a recurring rhythmic tremolo figure. This figure acts as a guide throughout the movement and is taken up by each of the instruments in turn. Set in rondo-like form, the main theme of the movement is a conversation between first and second violins in which they imitate each other in a kind of call and response. The third movement begins with a distant chorale, reminiscent of an ancient music somehow transformed. Later, echoes of the second movement appear. Eventually the driving scherzo of the second movement takes over and concludes the work the way it began: with intensity.


-- Pierre Jalbert


© 2016 Pierre Jalbert, String Theory

Photo:  Julia Jalbert

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