ROBERT STARER – The Third Quartet

Austrian-born American Contemporary composer Robert Starer [1924–2001] wrote three string quartets. The first two have multiple movements while the one under discussion, the Third, is in one movement.

The work opens with a strong, rhythmic phrase, leading into a series of ensemble chords, followed by a series of violin flourishes. This passage is then repeated with different tones, which achieves a similar emotional effect. Now the two violins express in a section of pure lyricism, very beautifully. A return to the opening phrase is brief and the lyricism returns. A solo pizzicato voice introduces a soaring violin line. The pizzicato is then repeated, leading this time to some ensemble chords, out of which arises a tender, but strong violin melody. Ascending melodic lines unfold and a descending line brings about a hint of the opening phrase.

A solo cello ostinato brings forth more animated violin lines, both solo and in duet. They set up a punctuating rhythmic section which soon returns to a solo cello interlude. A pause brings a new, peaceful mood with the violins absolutely wonderful as they express poignant melodies. Reaching for the skies, this is a stunning passage as the violins constantly explore their registers, with marvellous harmonised lines. A shrill solo note pauses, and the violins now become energised. Sweeping phrases gradually diminish in intensity before an uncharacteristically stately section emerges – it positively struts.

An atmosphere of abstract peace unfolds. Delicate violin lines are very special and lead to a fine conversation between the two violins. Shrill sounds are now all that can be heard, creating a mysterious passage. Ascending lines are powerful and become harmonised to conclude this section.

Immediately a pizzicato motif brings about another change in mood as a violin expresses mournfully, gypsy-like. Strong melodies again paint a picture of profound peace, with a lamenting nature. Drifting into harmonised melodies the music edges forward, allowing the violins to freely express – this is a wonderful piece of writing. The violins conclude on two somber, sustained chords.

I really enjoyed this piece and can also recommend the earlier quartets – both contain wonderful andante movements.

The review CD, titled Robert Starer: String Quartets Nos. 1, 2, & 3 on the CRI label, and performed by the Miami Quartet is available from Amazon UK, and Amazon US resellers. Of course it can be obtained via MP3 download as well.

This disc is on Spotify, with all quartets on earsense while the Third, at least, is on YouTube.

Listenability: Fabulous non-confronting Contemporary quartet works


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.