JOHN HARBISON (b.1938): String Quartets Nos. 1-4.
Catalogue Number: 10L089
Reference: CRC 2985
Description: Harbison's first four quartets explore a wide variety of forms and content, always with his meticulous craftsmanship and detailed contrapuntal texture. The terse, succinct Firsst inhabits a somewhat melancholy atmosphere; broadly tonal with much early-Schoenberg chromaticism, the piece is both intimate and obsessive. The much larger Second harks back to Renaissance polyphony more than the classical quartet tradition, lending a certain archaic feel to its textures and even harmony, though remaining in contemporary idiom throughout. The central song-like aria with its texturally varied accompaniment is a characteristically individual use of the ensemble without straying too far from it established traditions. The Third is a rather austere study in counterpoint and parallel motion, formally rigorous even as the work's overall structure, in contrasting sections, is a departure from conventional quartet layout. The Fourth makes much use of canonic devices, ingeniously employed to add texture and cohesiveness to the first movement's somber recitative and the third's melancholy chorale variations. Lydian String Quartet.