String Quartet No. 2, North of Spring
2 violins, viola, cello
Score and parts. For performance materials: Contact DET
I experienced three springs in 2001, working at progressively higher latitudes, from Wyoming to Norway. When I arrived at Wyoming’s Ucross Foundation for a March residency, the three creeks were snow-covered. Three weeks later the mud was nearly dry and a trio of antiphonal owls had set up housekeeping by my cabin. In Minneapolis, I saw the surface of Lake Harriet go from sullen to glimmering on a day in April. The end of May found me at 70 degrees north in a Sami village in Finnmark, Norway, the region English speakers used to call Lapland, but which the native people call Sápmi. The sun never set while I was there, and by midsummer the mosquitoes topped the food chain.
With such a background, it’s natural that my second quartet begins with somber colors, solo viola stating a theme—hopping fourths and four descending steps—that will frame the work and be obsessively explored in the second movement, a scherzo in a highly syncopated fifteen/eight meter. The slow movement generates warmth through lulling rhythms, while an assuring, archaic-sounding chorale develops underneath, leading to a final fugue and retelling, in greener tones, of the opening material.
The work was commissioned by the Schubert Club for the Rosalyra Quartet, and is dedicated to its members.
For more quartets, see Benediction and String Quartet No. 3 Una corda.
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