Quincy Porter String Quartets 1 - 4

Quincy Porter

String Quartets 1 – 4

Ives Quartet

Naxos 8.559305

These string quartets are fairly easy to talk about as a group since the four quartets were written in less than a decade (1922-1931). Consistency abounds on this disc: each has three movements of fast-slow-fast tempi, the musical language is very much in the American Populist style, melodies are rich and frequent, the string writing is idiomatic, and each quartet is solidly constructed chamber music. The Ives Quartet plays each piece with fluency and confidence. Their interpretation shows that they are passionate about releasing what I assume will be a full cycle of Quincy Porter’s nine quartets.

The quartets are not presented chronologically. The disc opens with Quartet 3 and its bold fanfare introduction makes a great entry point for the pieces. Quartet 2 comes next, with heavy Bartok references (specifically Bartok’s second quartet, not a bad inspiration to have). String Quartet 1 in E minor is, in my opinion, the most serious of these four quartets (in terms of mood, not of stature). The music is dark and dense yet still lush. Quartet 4 is an odd mix of playful and morose which the Ives Quartet flawlessly navigates.

In general, I have to say that the Ives Quartet is definitely the kind of quartet to record cycles. They have a wonderful homogeneity of sound and expression which brings out many nuances in compositions that, in lesser hands, may otherwise all sound the same. The Ives Quartet accentuates the differences between each of these quartets while still speaking with a singular clear voice. I look forward to the next disc in the series and to any cycle of American composers that the Ives Quartet wants to record (William Schuman, for example, would be cool. So would Batzner).

4 Responses to “Quincy Porter: String Quartets 1 – 4”
  1. It is one of those ironies that after years of hearing musicians in the know say how much they wished recordings were available of the Porter quartets, two cycles now appear, nearly at the same time. Besides the in-progress Naxos cycle from which the first volume is reviewed above, an already complete cycle of the nine quartets (2-disc set) performed by the Potomac String Quartet was released a few months ago on Albany Records.


  2. I’m not surprised the Potomac has done that. I seem to recall that their cycle of David Diamond quartets was rather successful.

  3. I’m glad there is renewed interest and exposure of Quincy Porter’s music. It’s fantastic, lyrical, quizzical music that can have many interpretations. The more recordings, the better! Check out the site http://www.Elieshanelson.com, to see my project on Porter.

  4. marianne kelly says:

    I agree, and love Eliesha Nelson’s Porter interpretations. Thanks.

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