About this work:
I completed the First Quartet in 1990. In writing the piece, I wanted to really digest what I knew of the string quartet repetoire and to use it as a point of departure. I also wanted to use some materials suggestive of jazz, without self-consciously quoting or lifting stylistic cliches. At the time , I was listening to the World Saxophone Quartet and the late quartets of Beethoven. The arching arpeggiation that comprises the first theme of the first movement actually came out first as an idea for saxophone quartet and the dotted rhythms that appear late in the movement, and again in movements three and four, are a mussing on Beethoven.
The plan of the four movements is quite traditional: Allegro, slow and lyrical, scherzo (a linking cadenza), Finale. The slow, spar second movement was my attempt to balance the unrelenting high energy of much of the rest of the work with something extremely simple and harmonically transparent. The scherzo builds energy back up bit by bit. It is almost entirely in triple meter (like its traditional model) , but until the very end, it withholds the constant threes with contradictory groupings. The regular triple meter is finally attained at the movements end (which is also its climax). All of this momentum is abruptly broken by a rubato cello cadenza which prepares for the big crash that comes on the downbeat of the fourth movement. The fourth movement reworks materials from the previous three movements and mixes these with something new -- the loud "chorale" that opens the movement.
Version: string quartet
Year composed: 1990
Ensemble type: Chamber or Jazz Ensemble, Without Voice:String Quartet
Instrumentation: 2 Violin, 1 Viola, 1 Cello