Release Date: March 10, 2017
Catalog #: NV6081
Format: Digital & Physical
20th Century
Chamber
String Quartet

An Arc of Quartets

Sirius Quartet
The Moravian Quartet
The Pedroia Quartet
The New England Quartet
The Millennium Quartet

As the title of this album suggests, AN ARC OF QUARTETS gives listeners unique access to a continuum of composer Michael G. Cunningham’s intricate and inviting string music. Five international string ensembles present the album’s seven compositions, including Sirius Quartet from New York; The Moravian Quartet from the Czech Republic; the Millennium Quartet from Florida; and The Pedroia Quartet and New England String Quartet, both from Massachusetts.

These groups’ performances of Cunningham’s work present the hallmarks of his style of string writing, which is defined by a focus on rhythm, melody, and texture, as well as his gentle, yet often dissonant, harmonic language. Although these quartets contain a wide range of sounds and styles, Cunningham maintains a reliable attraction to tense, lyrical melodies, and energetic rhythms.

One specific string effect that pervades these works is the glissando, or slide sound, that is produced easily on string instruments. In the middle of String Quartet No. 3, we can hear glissandi spangle an all-pizzicato section, while in the “Zestful” movement of String Quartet No. 5, these sliding gestures are decorated with a trill. This piece’s marriage of Cunningham’s typical style with uncontrollable, rhythmic energy marks it as one of the more abstract works on the album.

Cunningham’s quartets utilize special sounds as accents to a core of intriguing textures, evocative melodies, and momentum-building rhythms, all of which remain compelling throughout the album. The composer’s impressive skill at creating musical lines is displayed particularly strongly in the “Song and Fantasia” movement of his String Quartet No. 1, a piece defined by both soulful lyricism and intense contrapuntal motion.

Overall, one can admire both the experimentation and consistency present in Cunningham’s string music, as highlighted by the works included on AN ARC OF QUARTETS. The quality of each of these pieces speaks to the strength of his approach to composition.

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Artist Information

Michael G. Cunningham

Composer

Michael G. Cunningham was born in Warren MI in 1937 and holds music degrees from Wayne State University, the University of Michigan, and Indiana University. After limited teaching appointments at four different universities, he remained Professor of Theory and Composition at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire from 1973 to 2006. Since 1958 Cunningham has created a large catalog of various types of music for all manner of performer combinations and situations.

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Sirius Quartet

Ensemble

Internationally acclaimed veterans of contemporary music, Sirius Quartet combines exhilarating repertoire with unequalled improvisational fire. These conservatory-trained performer-composers shine with precision, soul and a raw energy rarely witnessed on stage, championing a forward-thinking, genre-defying approach that makes labels like 'New Music' sound tame.

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Pedroia String Quartet

Ensemble

With an intense and beautiful blend of freshness and experience, the Pedroia String Quartet is bursting onto the Boston scene. To the unified and persuasive core of Peter Sulski and Rohan Gregory’s ten years of quartet playing together, add the power and fire of first violinist Jae Cosmos Lee, and the consummate beauty and flexibility of cellist Jaques Lee Wood, and you have the Pedroia Quartet.

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