STRING QUARTET, No.1, op.12 (1999).
Duration: 23 minutes.
Premiere information: Miki Yuasa, violin I; Stephen Shepherd, violin II; Sarah Prahl, viola; James Ellis, violoncello; James Mothersbaugh, conductor.
Composers’ Workshop Concert, Clapp Recital Hall, The University of Iowa School of Music, Iowa City, IA, February 21, 1999.
My first string quartet was inspired by a masterpiece of literature, The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. I was mostly intrigued by the fact that the four books of the novel are structured around a central axis, as Durrell himself mentions in his notes: this idea influenced the structure of my composition to a great extend.
String Quartet No.1 was composed at the University of Iowa in 1999 and, a year later, my composition professor (David Gompper) proposed it as my Master Thesis.
The entire composition is set in four movements, following the four books by Durrell: I have used four basic themes, each one representing a character of the tetralogy. All four themes participate in each movement however, one of them is always predominant, according to the movement in sequence.
The main challenge for me was to create a work that would hold together with almost the same strength as Durrell's tetralogy: for this though, I had to make a structure both strong enough (to hold such a long work without 'falling apart') and fluid enough (to allow 'liveliness' within time unfolding). I solved the issue by using two methods:
1. a fifth 'theme' that represented the Nile, the ever-present 'character' of the tetralogy: the use of this extra theme remained constant throughout the entire composition, yet it moved slowly but steadily.
2. the use of 'sections' that inter-connected with each other by rules of the golden mean: this gave the whole the unity I was looking for.
The recording of this composition was based on its world premiere performance, as stated above. I was lucky to have had these five amazing musicians who worked always after 10 pm, yet mastered this fabulous performance within only four rehearsals!