This set appears to be a collection of string quartets from various Alabama composers. I don’t have the booklet to confirm this as I am reviewing it from Spotify. Most of the 15 works are brief, with very few making it to ten minutes.
Cynthia Miller’s Bird Quartet is in three named movements.
I – Herons in Winter – Opening with a sustained slightly atonal chord with little melodic development to be found. There are however, occasional murmurings from the ensemble. The first violin steps up in a melodic fragment, followed by a brief descending conversation with the second violin. A recapitulation of the fragment leads into a new melody, supported by chordal trills. Now the cello initiates a swirling passage that brings in a repeated phrase which moves to an ending.
II – Singing in the Branches features a simple ostinato with a pizzicato cello. A brief flurry of melody returns to the pizzicato with overlaid pastoral melodies. To be honest it doesn’t sound like birds singing but that’s OK – it works for me. The ostinato gives way briefly, allowing for some melodies. It then returns to take the movement out.
III – The Hawk is a quivering of bows with a cello melodic line, which introduces the two violins. Another ostinato evolves, with the violins wound tightly and another cello interlude. The ostinato undergoes a change in harmony and texture to move into a final flourish.
String Quartet No. 2 from Brian Moon is in one five-minute movement. It is an exercise in melodic variations from the two violins. It’s not unlike some of the previous piece with ostinatos supporting violin conversations. It reminds me of a work on a Balanescu Quartet recording that I reviewed several years ago.
Matthew Scott Philips’ fourth quartet titled Overcoming Tragedy is a moody work featuring rich sonorities. It consists of several passages with sombre melodies swapped around the ensemble. At times the melodies develop rhythmically as well as harmonically. The first violin predominates and it leads the ensemble through a fascinating melodic section which sings out over the pizzicato accompaniment. Further development introduces a strong, driving passage with the two violins in a duelling manner. The ensemble drops out, leaving the violins to muse in a duet. Slowly and subtly the ensemble craft a beautiful feeling, moving into rich harmonies that linger in the memory after the piece concludes.
Some of the works on this set seem to be following the current trend of music arranged for string quartet, not true string quartets. These are scattered throughout the two CDs.
The set is performed by the Amernet String Quartet on the MSR Classics label. It is available on Amazon.
The notes on Amazon seem to support my supposition about the composers. I have to say that, If Alabama is any indication, there would currently be plenty of fine music being written for string quartet all across the USA at present.
The CD can be heard on Spotify and YouTube.
Listenability: A diverse set of moods. There is some fine music here