Three String Quartets
Jeffrey Stadelman composer
New England String Quartet
Composer Jeffrey Stadelman presents three string quartets on Navona Records, each offering distinct perspectives on his career and versatile style of composition. Performed by the New England String Quartet, these works illustrate the composer’s intense, lyrical, and sensuous modes of expression.
Seraphita (Canons), the composer’s most recent work on this album, is a nine- movement canonic elaboration of the tune from the first song of Arnold Schoenberg’s Four Lieder, Op. 22 (1917), which began with the composer writing digital tools to gauge the harmonic potential of the melody. The nine movements treat the material in different ways by transforming its lyrical subject in clearly audible ways, most importantly through classical imitation techniques.
One of the composer’s few programmatic pieces, Eastland, was prompted by the tragic story of the 1915 Eastland disaster, in which a passenger steamship capsized in the Chicago River, drowning hundreds. This is an expressively straightforward piece that “aims to take its sardonic attitude to existential extremes,” using long glissandos and other devices to suggest the implacability, banality and blindness of fate.
String Quartet No. 2 was written in 1988 while Stadelman was under the tutelage of American composer Donald Martino at Harvard. This three-movement work moves from a consonant and lyrical opening to a section of variations, and finally to a precipitous and virtuosic whirlwind. The piece won the Blodgett Quartet Competition at Harvard in the year of its composition, and was performed in 1988 at Paine Hall in Cambridge by the New World String Quartet.
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Composer Jeff Stadelman's (b. 1959) unusual, arresting, exacting musical voice has evolved over 25 years, amounting to a complex musical practice that suggests no obvious counterpart.