String Quartet No. 2, North of Spring

String quartet 23”

A quartet with viola feature, beginning in somber tones, moving through obsessive and lyric moods to a final fugue.

Preview the score:

Listen to a performance by the Rosalyra Quartet: Sarah Kwak, Kenneth Freed, violins; Sabina Thatcher, viola; Beth Rapier, cello.

Andante mosso—Allegretto grazioso

Fast and reckless

Adagio con tenerezza

Buoyant, but not too fast


SKU: H127 Category: Tags: , ,


String Quartet No. 2, North of Spring

2 violins, viola, cello
Duration: 23′
Score and parts. For performance materials: Contact DET

Program note

composer and string quartet

DET and Rosalyra Quartet, 2002

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.

Additional information

Weight .5 lbs


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