The composer writes: When I was a young and enthusiastic, if not very skilled, violist, I loved nothing better than to play chamber music. Thus I have carried that repertoire around with me ever since. About 40 years later, I still can’t live without the two piano quartets by Mozart or the three by Brahms, but lodged almost as near my heart are later examples, too: both Fauré piano quartets (yes, even No. 2), and great 20th-century piano quartets by composers such as Copland, Palmer, Hartke, and Weir. Attempting my own first work in this medium at the comparatively late age of 55, therefore, has stirred conflicting emotions—intimidation at the idea of “competing” against the masters, but also a feeling of coming home to familiar, muchloved surroundings.
My Piano Quartet is in one continuous movement, but it falls into several sections easily noted by ear, even on first acquaintance. The raw musical material is the same throughout—a kind of variations set—but stark changes in tempo and character define a series of connected mini-movements. At the outset, a short allegro (marked Risoluto) announces the thematic material and serves notice that bell-like sonorities (first in the piano, later in the strings) will be crucial. The piano continues to imitate bells in the slow movement (Lento, molto cantabile) that follows, against which the strings sing lyrically. A fast interlude (Allegro) reverses the roles—bell sounds in the strings as a backdrop for spiky interjections by the piano. This leads quickly to even faster music, a full-fledged scherzo (Scherzando e molto leggero) featuring breathless rhythmic hiccups and chordal passagework that flirt with memories of pop music. The oily trio (Comodo, non affrettato) might allude to pop memories, too, but of a different sort. The quartet concludes with a second slow movement, with the piano now cast as soloist, and a brisk coda recalling the clangorous bell sounds of the opening.
Performances: (11/26/09): LA Piano Quartet, October 4, 2005 (Logan, UT) LA Piano Quartet, January 28, 2006 (Reading, PA) Lisa Tipton and Friends, March 6, 2006 (Carnegie Hall) American Modern Ensemble, May 27 and 28, 2006 (New York City) Seal Bay Festival, June 11, 12, 13, 14, 2006 (Maine) LA Piano Quartet, October 17, 2006 (Cornell University) LA Piano Quartet, October 22, 2006 (Colgate University) LA Piano Quartet, November 5, 2006 (Harrisburg, PA) LA Piano Quartet, November 7, 2006 (Eastman School of Music) LA PIano Quartet, November 15, 2006 (Brown University) LA Piano Quartet, February 11, 2007 (Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, NY) Moritzburg Festival, August 15, 2007 Members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, December 4, 2007 Students of the Royal Northern College of Music, August 28, 2008 (BBC Proms, London) LA Piano Quartet, November 8, 2008 (Columbia, MD) Janey Choi, Roberta Crawford, Stephen Stalker, and Michael Salmirs, November 22, 2008 (Binghamton University) LA Piano Quartet, April 16, 2010 (U. of So. Carolina) Chicago Chamber Musicians, May 23, 2010
Sponsored by: Members of the Arizona Senior Academy and the Academy Village, by the estate of Carol Kramer, and Dan Coleman