String Quartets

String Quartet No. 1 (1965)
String Quartet – 7 mins.
Audio File | Score

Two con­nected move­ments — a pre­lude with Gersh­winesque tart­ness and a dri­ving fast-movement  in sonata-form with a cou­ple of jux­ta­po­si­tions from the prelude.

String Quartet No. 2 (1966)
String Quartet – 11 mins.
Audio Files | Score

The five-movement arch-form of this very early work (1966) is obvi­ously inspired by Bar­tok, but the unabashed tune­ful­ness and folksong/rock’n’roll impe­tus give it a direct­ness the com­poser still cherishes.

Papillons – String Quartet after R. Schumann (1976)
String Quartet – 30 mins., Audio File | Score

Papil­lons (1976) is, on one level a piece-within-a-piece about a string quar­tet play­ing a para­phrase of Robert Schumann’s “Papil­lons” (But­ter­flies). Schumann’s fas­ci­nat­ing piano work is in the form of unti­tled char­ac­ter pieces which are so evanes­cent indi­vid­u­ally that the lis­tener links them together into a unique kind of for­mal per­cep­tion. The quar­tet is in the form of a Pro­logue and Paraphrase. In the Pro­logue, the play­ers present some of Schumann’s melodic and rhyth­mic ideas in a num­ber of late 20th cen­tury styl­is­tic dis­guises, sep­a­rated by a recur­ring fas­tand light but­ter­fly tex­ture. It is the cel­list who deter­mines to bring this ven­ture to a halt, quot­ing the recita­tive from Beethoven’s 9th — “O friends, not these sounds” —sug­gest­ing that these 20th cen­tury (now 21st ) musi­cians might feel more at home with the musi­cal ges­tures of the 19th century. The Para­phrase then begins, alter­nat­ing Schumann’s 12 pieces with newly com­posed pieces which emu­late or reflect upon the vital­ity and infec­tious appeal of Schumann’s music. The solo first vio­lin is per­mit­ted the final com­ment as Schumann’s music dis­si­pates, quot­ing the motto line from Freund’s set­ting of Carl Sandburg’s “Play­things of the Wind”: “The past is a bucket of ashes.” Papil­lons was the win­ner of the 1979 Wash­ing­ton Inter­na­tional String Quar­tet Com­po­si­tion Com­pe­ti­tion, and was pre­miered at the Cor­co­ran Gallery by the National Sym­phony String Quartet.

Summersongs (String Quartet No. 4) (2009)
String Quartet – 16 mins.
About | Score | Audio

Sum­mer­songs (String Quar­tet #4) could be described as three tunes in search of a string quar­tet. The tunes present con­trast­ing char­ac­ters. The first one, which dom­i­nates the open­ing of the piece after emerg­ing from a tor­ren­tial tan­gle of ener­getic scale pat­terns, is strong and broad, a bold rising-fourth begin­ning (think “All the Things You Are”) fol­lowed by dri­ving syn­co­pated phrases and shift­ing har­monies. The sec­ond tune, which defines the mid­dle of the piece, has a dis­tinct Latin fla­vor. Easy-going at first, its syn­co­pa­tions become more insis­tent, ignit­ing a firestorm of activ­ity. The final tune is as slight and refresh­ing as a sum­mer breeze. Heard over a gen­tle drone, its only devel­op­ment is by reduc­tion, invit­ing the lis­tener to fill in the miss­ing notes.