Mp3 Blog #75: String Quartets 5

George Crumb:
Black Angels “Thirteen Images from the Dark Land” (1969-70)
I. Departure
II. Absence
III. Return
For amplified string quartet
Performed by the Concord Quartet
Available on this compact disc

Roger Reynolds:
”Ariadne’s Thread” (1994)
Finding the Path
Pressing inward
Animated line
Exhuberant line
Desparate line
Line of desire
Quietest moment of this set
For string quartet and computer generated sounds
Performed by the Arditti String Quartet
Currently not available commercially

Iannis Xenakis:
”Tetras” (1983)
Performed by the Arditti String Quartet
Available on this compact disc

George Rochberg:
String Quartet #3 (1972)
I. Introduction: Fantasia, II. March
III. Variations
IV. March, V. Finale Scherzos and Seranades
Performed by the Concord Quartet
Available on this compact disc featuring Rochberg’s complete Concord Quartets

(Note that all files are in m4a format, download the files first before playing them)

* * * * *

For the last of this my five-part string quartet series (and my 100th blog post) I’ve decided to post more string quartets at once than I ever have before.

Following the work’s epigram “written In tempore belli” (in time of war) “Black Angels” is one of George Crumb’s most mystical and emotionally affecting works. To evoke the subtitle ““Thirteen Images from the Dark Land” the work requires a plethora of other-wordly extra-instrumental techniques and that the performers of the quartet also sing and each perform a number of percussion instruments including a glass harmonic (the sound of which it has been rumored to cause insanity). In our current era of extended and seemingly endless bloody conflicts this is still a very necessary work that still resonates strong.

Roger Reynold’s “Ariadne’s Thread” refers to the Greek legend of Ariadne and a method of problem solving called Ariadne’s Thread. In this work the string quartet weaves darkly with electronic sounds to create an environment and narrative that is both eerie and haunting.

“Tetras” represents a culmination of many Xenakis’s compositional techniques and successful virtuosic writing for string quartet. For many years I admittedly had a lot of trouble dealing with and understanding Xenakis’s music. The first piece that I began to actually appreciate was “Jalons” particularly because of one moment with a kaleidoscopic view on a synthetic scale. A few years later I heard “Tetras” and it became the first Xenakis piece that I really enjoyed.

With moments of strong tonality and an aching third movement that sounds as though it were lifted from a long lost late-Beethoven string quartet, George Rochberg’s third string quartet caused a large amount of controversy after its premiere. Early in his career George Rochberg was one of the strongest and finest proponents of serial music in the U.S.A. until his son died in 1963 and after an esthetic crisis he found that tonality was the only way that he could write that accurately expressed his grief. In my opinion, this quartet (along with the other three in the series of Concord Quartet) stands as the culmination of this emotional development in this later phase of George Rochberg’s music.

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