COMPOSER 1945–2013

Opus 56

String Quartet No. 4 (1972)

for String Quartet

  • Overture
  • Isorhythmic Motet
  • Passacaglia

Duration: 19 min.

Dedication: to Michael Sussholtz

Premiere: 1982; M. Neuman Quartet [EAV recording]

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Composed in 1972, this highly personal work carries to powerful extremes Rosner’s distinctive manner of turning ancient forms and devices to contemporary expressive purposes. The first movement is a stark French overture, with a tempestuous allegro relieved only by brief oases of icy calm. The second movement is one of Rosner’s most original and ingenious creations, based on the medieval form known as an isorhythmic motet. A solemn, eight-bar rhythmic pattern involving each instrument is reiterated, with different pitches at each recurrence. Rosner has constructed his ostinato with overlapping entrances and irregular groupings so that the result is gripping and hypnotic, as passages of slashing violence are suddenly interrupted by moments of striking purity. The third and final movement is a grueling passacaglia (in duple meter, however) that builds to a harrowing yet ecstatic climax before receding into calm resignation. String Quartet No. 4 is one of Rosner’s most fully realized works—tightly concentrated both expressively and motivically. (Notes by Walter Simmons)