Second String Quartet (1994)

My Second String Quartet was composed in 1994 and premiered by cellist Charles Forbes and members of the Settlement Contemporary Players of Philadelphia, to whom the work is dedicated. The piece is in the form of a long fantasia-like theme and ten variations. However, theme and variations form is used in a unique way in this and other pieces of mine. The usual concept underlying the form is one of a simplistic starting point growing in complexity with each variation, such as the opening of Beethoven’s Opus 26 Piano Sonata or the Handel Variations of Brahms to name a few obvious examples. The theme of this piece, however, serves a very different purpose. Rather, it presents many motives, textures, and gestures: from a four voice fugal opening to very sparse, transparent colors to a sweeping transition into the first variation. It is then the purpose of each variation to select one or two ‘motivic cells’ from the theme and 'compose out' a full realization of the chosen materials. A good analogy for the theme and variation form as used in standard practice would be the Rouan Cathedrals series by Monet, all depicting the same subject but at different times of the day and under different weather and lighting conditions. My use of the form would be more akin to taking Monet’s cathedral, slicing it into its component parts with a razor blade, and then creating a series of paintings with one painting made up of just the door, then one using only the sky, then only the windows, and so on.

Performance history:
12/94 - by Inna Nedorezor and Claire-Jeanne Martin, violin; Ruth Wright, viola; and Charles Forbes, cello.
Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey.

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