String quartet #2 (1995)

Joelle Wallach

About this work:

Joelle Wallach's String Quartet #2 (1995) takes its stark epigram from Yeats' "The Circus Animals Desertion":


...Now that my ladder's gone,
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.


The work was conceived and composed in the aftermath of the composer's husband's sudden, untimely death.   As the Yeats lines suggest, the quartet's four movements explore intense sensibilities and subtle interactions among players through touching, unpretentious melodies which are presented in simple yet profoundly poignant ways. 

The Quartet consists of four movements or moods.  The first is nostalgic, declarative, almost sweet.  Each instrument alternately sings part of the melodic line and plays other melodic fragments against it.  The second movement is angry, angular yet again clearly melodic with the instruments this time almost always moving in parallel pairs. They rage against one another while driven closely together.

In the third movement, the viola sustains a plaintive melody almost all the time, with the other instruments providing an eerie harmonic background.  Although the harmonic motion seems strangely static, it inexorably, very gradually almost imperceptibly stretches toward unexpected tonal centers.

The fourth movement is brisker.  Yet it too has a craggy insinuated melancholy.  Here the instruments frequently play in pairs, breaking off and abandoning the solitary viola to play alone, exploring cadenzas which seem to contemplate the music that's gone before.


Review by Mark Greenfest for the “New Music Connoisseur”:

Joelle Wallach, String Quartet (1995) has a romantic intensity with a Webernian clarity.  Although the Lumina Quartet capably played this piece with its four differently tempered movements, it sings out to be played in Alice Tully Hall.  Her voice has the strength of Bartok (or Beethoven) – passionate, articulate, authentic and thoroughly moving.


Year composed: 1995
Duration: 00:13:00
Ensemble type: Chamber or Jazz Ensemble, Without Voice:String Quartet
Instrumentation: 2 Violin, 1 Viola, 1 Cello
Instrumentation notes: 2 vln, vla, vc

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