The works of the eight composers on QUADRANTS 3 display both the broad scope of styles and energies that the string quartet can produce, while also highlighting the individual talents of each artist. The resident ensemble for QUADRANTS 3, Altius Quartet, who take their name from the Olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger), handles each piece with skill and flair.
The album begins with Bruce Babcock’s The Present Moment. Richly harmonic, the piece is filled with themes that develop and recur like memories changing over time. Nora Morrow presents her uplifting, motivic Rose Moon, sonically emulating the image of a rose blooming with a touch of sentimentality (the piece is also named after her mother). This is followed by Gary Smart’s Three Fantasies, intertwining American jazz, European classical, and African American traditions to create a unique “bluesy” string quartet performance.
Jonathan Newmark’s witty Tom Dooley without the fringe on top, written as a speed writing exercise, features musical ideas from a couple of popular tunes, while Alastair White’s Two Panels, a brisk, atonal composition, expresses the composer’s desire to overcome the way we perceive time, identity, and authenticity. Janice Macaulay’s Three Pieces for String Quartet creates dynamic, lyrical, and playful interactions among the players, while the dramatic Picasso’s Flight presents a narrative about composer Beth Mehocic’s African Grey parrot, Picasso, and his failed attempts at flying. QUADRANTS 3 concludes with Phelps Dean Witter’s String Quartet No. 4, a piece filled with building emotion and volume — so moving in fact that it is hard to believe the composer came up with this piece on the way to the grocery store.
The QUADRANTS series introduces what’s on the ground floor of new string quartet music. From atonality, dissonance, and brisk, almost violent bowings, to longer, more expressive notes and tender moments of tonality and rich harmonies, the album balances tradition with innovation all while carving a space in the repertoire of modern string quartet music.