String Quartet No. 5 (1977)
for String Quartet
Duration: 14 min.
Recording: Albany TROY210
Premiere: 1979; Wagner College Quartet; Staten Island, NY
In String Quartet No. 5, I strove for an atmosphere concurrently mysterious and warm, essentially tranquil, but not without some challenges and climaxes. If this suggests the state of mind one reaches in meditation or certain dreams, or perhaps that lightness some individuals describe after heart-stoppages and resuscitations, I may have achieved my aim.
The structure is a one-movement introduction and moto perpetuo. The first part alternates modal melodies over drones, with stylized passages of three-voice harmony. (The aficionado of early music will detect a resemblance to organum or clausula.) The second part keeps the players very active with shimmering, quasi-coloristic passage work, which, busy as it is, should never sound hectic or harsh. However interesting such purely textural music may be, I never resort (as my minimalist colleagues do) to allowing it to remain the main spotlight; in String Quartet No. 5 and other such works, the patterns serve as a screen of accompaniment for more truly melodic and choral material. (Notes by Arnold Rosner)