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Echo 20/21 American Contemporaries / Emerson String Quartet


Release Date: 02/08/2005 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 4775384   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  John HarbisonRichard WernickGunther Schuller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Emerson String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

The Emerson Quartet serve all three composers with characteristically magnificent dedication.

Of these three American composers, John Harbison is now making the most headway in the British catalogue. I reported on a CD of his mixed chamber music (7/91) and there are others in the pipeline. One can see why Harbison is found attractive. His works are grateful to play and easy to listen to, especially when heard alongside the Schuller and Wernick pieces. I have commented before on Harbison's penchant for a casual, improvisatory approach to composition—I find this a weakness in the longest movement, the third, of his Quartet No. 2 where the recitatives ramble on alongside sections of real lyrical intensity. Harbison is so
Read more instinctive in his approach, where the first movement sounds like an imitation Purcell Fantasy, that his comments in the CD booklet seem to refer to a creative process which he is observing rather than controlling.

Richard Wernick is the least known of the three. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1977, has been active as a ballet composer, admires e. e. cummings, but is known to the British catalogue only for a Piano Sonata (3/87). His two-movement Quartet No. 4 from 1990 seems commendably taut after the Harbison. The first scherzo in the second movement is an oblique homage to Dvorak and some of the arioso writing is transcendentally calm.

Gunther Schuller is a brilliantly gifted musician in many capacities, not least his contribution to jazz scholarship. As the inventor of the jazz-classical hybrid called Third Stream in 1960, Schuller is well qualified to bring together various musical traditions. He rarely does so in his concert music, although there are different levels within this quartet—intriguingly a G minor snippet that Beethoven wrote in an English woman's autograph album crops up in the finale at 2'26''. But the long Canzona, the central slow movement, is unusually passionate. The Emerson Quartet, whose Ives recordings I have particularly praised (4/93) serve all three composers with characteristically magnificent dedication—and are well recorded too.

-- Peter Dickinson, Gramophone [11/1993]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Quartet for Strings no 2 by John Harbison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Emerson String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1987; USA 
2.
Quartet for Strings no 4 by Richard Wernick
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Emerson String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1990; USA 
3.
Quartet for Strings no 3 by Gunther Schuller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Emerson String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1986; USA 

Sound Samples

String Quartet no.2 (1987): 1. Fantasia: Poco largo
String Quartet no.2 (1987): 2. Concerto: Allegro, leggiero
String Quartet no.2 (1987): 3. Aria and Recitative: Andante cantabile
String Quartet no.2 (1987): 4. Sonata: Allegro moderato
String Quartet no.2 (1987): 5. Chorale Fantasia: Vivo
String Quartet no.4 (1990): 1. Introduction and Allegro
String Quartet no.4 (1990): 2. Scherzo I (homage to A.D.) - Arioso I - Scherzo II - Arioso II - Scherzo I - Epilogue
String Quartet no.3 (1986): 1. Maestoso, with great intensity
String Quartet no.3 (1986): 2. Canzona: Adagio
String Quartet no.3 (1986): 3. Allegro vivace - Andante - Adagio - Andante - Tempo I - Presto

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