Quartet for Strings No.2

on a randomly-generated tone row


1. Ronzio di do diesis
2. Presto ma non tanto - Larghissimo - Presto assai
3. Rondo rampicante

Date Duration Listen
22 July 2011 17'41" Realization (.MP3) Score (.PDF)
24.3 MB 304 KB

Excellent: I can die satisfied, now. Unlike those slackers Ravel, Debussy, Glinka, Verdi, Franck, Bruckner, Goldmark, Fauré, Chausson, Elgar, Hanson, Kreisler, Sinding, Strauss, Lutoslawski, and Tubin, I shall leave more than one string quartet - the queen of all the forms - behind. There will be at least two: like Janácek's (that other late bloomer) or Borodin's (that other amateur).

Now, let me be the first to mention, that - yes, yes, yes - there are some remarkable resemblances between parts of the Larghissimo of the second movement of this quartet and the Adagio molto of Bartók's Fifth. This was no accident. There's a reason why I shouldn't emulate the practice of the 20th century's hands-down greatest quartetist? Beethoven's first six quartets all sounded exactly like Joseph Haydn, after all; and everyone knows he did this consciously, in order to consolidate and express the acme of Classicism, before striking out into the high grounds of his Middle Period. Not that I personally am either worthy, or even capable, of climbing up to help tie the shoelace of The Master; but the example is apropos. Every last one of Brahms' quartets sounded exactly like Beethoven, as well; so surely even a lesser scribbler, like myself, may be justified in announcing himself a confirmed and humble disciple of Bartók for life. Anyone who bothers to listen to any of my quartets will recognize the debt they owe him, anyway - and not just in the Larghissimo section of this particular piece.

Those who followed my comment on the Double Concerto Op.15 about the psychological letdown experienced after finishing the first movement of an extended piece may be interested to learn the movements of this quartet were composed in an unusual order: the Presto first, then the Rondo, and then finally the initial movement. This was not according to some grand scheme, but seemingly by accident, as every time I started sketching a movement, it quickly became apparent to me the material being developed was not appropriate for an expository section. It did seem to help with the problem of maintaining compositional tension in the process, however, since the challenge of creating a fresh and original opening movement was continually postponed until the final stage of the work. Or maybe it was just the fact I was writing a quartet that kept me so engaged. Only time will tell.

Anyone who has enough Italian to read most conventional tempo markings, but still wonders what the heck I am on about in this piece, should be satisfied to learn rampicante means "wandering, rambling, climbing," &c - so the rondo may be randomly hiking through foothills, as it were (or whatever imaginary landscape you prefer to invent), while continually coming back to slightly different views on the rondo theme. The regular slight increases in beats per minute every time that theme returns may even be associated with the elevated heart-rate the unwonted exercize inspires in you, who knows? Ronzio di do diesis, on the other hand, is admittedly not much help as a tempo indication, but simply means "droning on c-sharp." So if you hear any irritating single-note ostinati or pedal-points in the first movement that you wish would stop already, rest assured the culprit is definitely a c-sharp in whatever register. The composer absolves himself in advance of any legal liability for whatever psychiatric episodes these events may trigger in the unwary.

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