String Quartet in E
Largo - Allegro
Grave - Allegro
Adagio - Allegro
To Rex Sinquefield with sincere gratitude.
Of all musical forms, perhaps the string quartet is associated most closely with classicism and the enlightenment. (Only in music is the late eighteenth century classical. In all other areas of endeavor this period would be more accurately neo-classical, but since the music of the ancient world is mostly lost to us, Stamitz and Haydn get to be the classics in music, even if they are rather younger than genuine classics like Homer and Sophacles.)
When I wrote this piece, it was my second large scale work. (My first was a series of sketches for chamber ensemble that is not on this site.) The previous work, while interesting, was less well balanced than I would have liked, and I felt that working in the string quartet it was important to rectify those problems. While this is no longer the favorite of my compositions, I do think that it was a successful experiment.
The first movement begins with a contemplative introduction that sets much of the tone of the piece. (I had written a movement a year or so earlier that featured some slow chant-like material, and I wished to incorporate it into the work, so a somewhat introspective mood was called for.) It's followed by a quicker fugato section that serves as the first theme. The contrapuntal texture continues through the second theme. The return of the introductory material marks the beginning of the development, which may still be the most placid development that I've written. The recapitulation begins with the fugato material in used in stretto.
The second movement is a rather tongue in cheek scherzo. I begins with a strangely mocking pun and flows into a fast dance in mixed meter. The dance slowly grows more lighthearted, but never looses a somewhat Balkan character.
The third movement is essentially the earlier movement that I had wished to incorporate. It begins with a very slow chant-like passage, which is periodically interrupted by some much faster more disjointed material. While it isn't quite a true slow movement, the chant pervades enough of the movement to give it the feel required.
The final movement begins with yet another slow introduction. It's a bit more dynamic than either of the other two slow passages, and the texture is much thicker. In many ways, I feel that this is some of my best writing in the piece, and it returns at key structural moments throughout the movement. The body of the movement is another fast dance, less mocking than the scherzo and less jagged, but still changing slowly as it progresses. Worth noting are two significant quotations in the development; one from an Easter hymn and the other from a famous aria. The return of the four voice pillar closes the piece triumphantly.