ELEANOR ALBERGA (b.1949): String Quartets Nos. 1-3.
Catalogue Number: 07V053
Label: Navona Records
Description: The Jamaican-born and raised, British-domiciled composer takes an interesting and individual approach to the venerable form in these quartets. All three have a strong core of tonality, though she readily departs from this ad lib., and some material is based on note-rows, more or less loosely used. Between her heritage and more recent connection to the world of contemporary dance, it is not surprising that an appealing rhythmic vivacity is a feature of her works. The first quartet was inspired by the general principles of the physics of subatomic matter originating in space - not in any specific or systematic sense, but more as an inspiration for the work’s restless activity and energy, and the sense of wonder that pervades the central slow movement. In the first movement the quasi-fugal textures (not form) in which ideas overlap and seem to influence or bounce off one another suggests the Brownian Motion of particles, particles possessing a considerable degree of swing, or groove! The central movement is described by the composer as 'stargazing from outer space' and the vigorous finale is an untamed explosion of energy. The Second is structurally tauter, in an economical single span that incorporates sections suggestive of traditional movements - a pizzicato scherzo, a slow movement - in a satisfyingly cogent and concise musical argument based on transmutations of a brief motif heard at the start. The Third is considerably more expansive than either of its predecessors, in relatively conventional four-movement form. The first movement is reflective, taking time to establish a tonal fulcrum which is recalled in the slow movement and finale, with tension generated between this and twelve-tone material. The brittle scherzo is based on fragments of series, but the slow movement is meditative, with a hymnlike central part and a coda that bring back the tonality of the opening after a climax based on the scherzo material. The finale completes this process, summing up the work and returning full circle to the tonal center of the beginning. Ensemble Arcadiana.