BRUCE ADOLPHE – Two Named Quartets – SQs Nos. 1 & 2

Bruce Adolphe [born 1955] is an American composer, an educator and author, specialising in music books. He has written at least four string quartets.

String quartet No. 1, By a Grace of Sense Surrounded, is a one movement work. Opening with a mildly atonal mood, which is quite alluring, it then moves into a gentle melodic passage for a moment before drifting into tempo with a slightly abstract tinge. The tempo never really seems to get going at this stage and there are lots of deep melodic episodes. The music develops into a series of many brief passages, variously melodic, atonal, solo, ensemble, and some minimalist sections. By my reckoning the longest continuous passage is about two minutes. There is a beautiful solo cello section, with the other players adding interest around the fringes. Then it is the turn of the violin to engage in some brooding melodies. There is a quivering violin section near the end which leads back into more solo-based playing and, finally, a conclusion. It runs for about 14 minutes.

This is slightly Modern music that sits on the conservative end of the genre. It contains gentle chaotic passages and a large number of different sections. It is a splendid piece of writing.

String quartet No. 2 is titled Turning, Returning and contains four named movements. They are all short. This piece again is about 14 minutes.

At Night has an ostinato that continues virtually right throughout this brief work. Melodies came and go in a similar manner to the previous piece, with the exception being the constant undercurrent of rhythm.

From My Childhood begins in a slow tempo with sustained notes leading to a melancholy mood. There is a pulse here and the melodies drift across it. The pulse occasionally ceases for a few moments, leaving silence, before picking up again.

Fantasia is more insistent. It opens with a flourish of slightly dark melodies. The phrases grow longer and an ostinato is introduced. The ensemble descends into chaos before working itself back into silence, and then a quiet violin section.

At Night is similar to the former movements in that it is a constant series of different sections. It is more aggressive melodically and a little more chaotic.

This work follows a consistent style of considered Modernism. I enjoyed it immensely although I would have preferred to have heard more. These two quartets in total don’t quite make it to 30 minutes! However, there is a saving grace. There also two piano pieces on the CD. The best is titled In Memories Of … It is a 15-minute work with piano accompanied by the string quartet. This is a fine piece. The piano and ensemble are constantly interacting with the piano, and there are also many introspective sections. I really like it. It’s quite modern, much more than the quartets on the disc.

The second piece And All is Always Now is for piano and violin. I didn’t find this one as attractive. It was a bit ‘out there’.

Overall this disc is quite appealing. Titled Turning, Returning, and performed by the Brentano Quartet, it is available on Amazon as an MP3 download. The circumstances keep changing, sometimes the CD is available and at other times it isn’t. It’s also on Spotify and youtube.  I intend to discuss the fourth quartet, Whispers of Mortality, in the future.

Listenability:  Mild Modernism.

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