EDWARD COWIE (b.1943): String Quartets No. 3 “In Flight Music”, No. 4 and No. 5 “Birdsong Bagatelles”.
Catalogue Number: 03R067
Description: Cowie's third and fifth quartets, like much of his music, are concerned with nature, especially birds and flight, and as is often the case both blend aspects of tonality with elements that are governed by no such man-made rules, with a wholly organic natural freedom that would sound very avant garde were they to be heard in isolation. In Flight Music is vividly descriptive of ideas surrounding flight, including human attempts to be untethered from the ground, but it is the thermals, breezes and currents of air rather than mechanisms that are evoked by this airy, buoyant music. The Fifth consists of 24 tiny bird portraits, perfect aural analogues of the composer's elegant, colorful and characterful drawings (one of which is reproduced in the booklet). The cycle explores the 24 keys - more or less loosely; you would be hard pressed to define the tonality of some, while others are very clear, and all incorporate a complexity of heterophonic surrounding material, though only some instances of imitation of actual birdsong; the movements, plumage and flight patterns of the birds are as important as their cries. The Fourth stands rather apart from the others in that instead of the natural world it is concerned with the traversal of an inner landscape, a response to a period of devastating bereavement and illness touching the composer's life. Not a mournful lament, its single arching span builds an emotionally ascending eulogy, leading to a final transcendent hymn. Kreutzer Quartet.