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Tsontakis: Piano Quartet Trilogy / Broyhill Ensemble

Release Date: 11/23/2004 
Label:  Koch International Classics Catalog #: 7550   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  George Tsontakis
Performer:  Gil MorgensternBrian ZegerCarol CookDarrett Adkins,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Broyhill Chamber Players
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 6 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The Broyhill disc features a “piano quartet trilogy” which is and isn’t exactly what that suggests. There are three quartets, all with piano, but only the second and third in order of composition feature the traditional formation, i.e., piano plus string trio. The first, Eclipse (1995), substitutes clarinet for viola. No quibble here, just a clarification.

The music, however, makes for a very rich cycle that justifies this presentation. The aforementioned Eclipse is the most diverse and dramatic of the three. Its four-movement course is framed by a long and sober clarinet melody, austerely accompanied. The second movement is a frantic Greek dance; the last movement, a frenzied intersection between Schoenberg and bebop. The
Read more third movement is far and away the most unsettling (Serene, yet disturbing is its direction): it is characterized by delicate tremolos in all the instruments, creating a rustling effect that becomes overwhelming, even though extremely fragile. Bagatelles (1997) is the most “Rochbergian” of the set, in that it engages with late Beethoven bagatelles as a reference. These are personalized and abstracted—I can testify that, as one who is always playing through the Op. 126, I hear moments that come close to quotation, but never quite get there. Tsontakis is engaged in a dialogue with the master, and while respectful, it never is subservient. The short solo piano Bagatelle (1996) is very much in the same spirit, and seems to be a sketch for this work.

The final piece in the set is appropriately titled Piano Quartet No. 2, because it is the most abstract of the three. This should not suggest any lack of expression, though—just the opposite. Commissioned to celebrate the work of pianist/concert-organizer Samuel Sanders, it was premiered soon after his death. While there was no intention for the work to be a memorial, its tone is fitting for that purpose. The piece is somber, and obsessive in its focus on compact, recognizable, and repeated motives, especially in the second movement, which has an elegaic and eulogic rhetoric.

Robert Carl, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Quartet for Piano and Strings no 2 by George Tsontakis
Performer:  Gil Morgenstern (Violin), Brian Zeger (Piano), Carol Cook (Viola),
Darrett Adkins (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Broyhill Chamber Players
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1999 
Eclipse by George Tsontakis
Performer:  Brian Zeger (Piano), Todd Palmer (Clarinet), Darrett Adkins (Cello),
Gil Morgenstern (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Broyhill Chamber Players
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1995; USA 
Bagatelles (3) for Piano and Strings by George Tsontakis
Performer:  Brian Zeger (Piano), Darrett Adkins (Cello), Gil Morgenstern (Violin),
Carol Cook (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Broyhill Chamber Players
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1997; USA 
Bagatelle for Piano by George Tsontakis
Performer:  Brian Zeger (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1996; USA 

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