About this work:
During the course of its two movements, between the opening elegiac duet and the four player’s communal closing, Joelle Wallach’s String Quartet 1999 unveils a vivid inner universe. Its epigram, taken from a poem by Delmore Schwartz, “In the slight ripple, the mind perceives the heart,” suggests the nature of the music’s emotional progress: beneath soaring melodies, tiny rivulets of melodic material merge and gather, forming ever new, rushing rivers of personal passion. Poignant tenderness gives way to agitation, terror, yearning, hope and transcendence. Twice a brave, heavy-footed little dance - prickly with the bravura slapstick of responsive, swooping portamenti - interrupts; and twice it is subsumed into the work’s overarching, darker texture.
String Quartet 1999 was commissioned by the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music for the Muir Quartet. At its April 4, 2001 premiere in Tucson, Dan Buckley of The Tucson Citizen wrote:
The two movement, roughly 12-minute work began in probing, shadowy harmonies, the music moving in unexpected directions, stirred up periodically by little dancing eddies. The opening movement in particular pit formation-flying violins over more independent bottom string figures, the ensemble and solo elements perfectly balanced so as to reveal the full texture in transparent relief.
The second movement was more lyrical and cast more in post-romantic harmonies, but with a highly inventive way of treating the material. Wallach seemed to be freely transforming and reshaping the themes across temporal and cultural boundaries, referencing classical counterpoint, folkish traditions, and sacred music of the west and Middle East to come to a kind of personal, if uneasy, peace. It was complex, but eloquent music that spoke to the appreciative crowd.