Four Elements


Thomas Cabaniss composer
Yuriy Bekker violinist
Micah Gangwer violinist
Jan-Marie Joyce violist
Jason Calloway cellist
Charleston Symphony String Quartet

Release Date: January 19, 2024
Catalog #: NV6580
Format: Digital
21st Century
String Quartet

FOUR ELEMENTS from Thomas Cabaniss showcases the composer’s creative versatility developed over three decades collaborating across various artistic disciplines. Writing music for dance, theater, film, and the concert stage, Cabaniss incorporates elements from all of these forms in his works for string quartet. Many of the movements started out as portions of dance and theater works, while others were crafted from the start for concert audiences. Performed by the Charleston Symphony String Quartet, FOUR ELEMENTS presents Cabaniss’s String Quartets 1, 2, & 5 — representing the first half of his output in this musical form. Taken together, the works serve as a fitting reflection of his wide-ranging pursuits and passions.


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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 String Quartet #1 - Hidden Wounds: I. Agitato Thomas Cabaniss Charleston Symphony String Quartet | Yuriy Bekker, Micah Gangwer - violins; Jan-Marie Joyce, viola; Jason Calloway, cello 4:35
02 String Quartet #1 - Hidden Wounds: II. Adagio Thomas Cabaniss Charleston Symphony String Quartet | Yuriy Bekker, Micah Gangwer - violins; Jan-Marie Joyce, viola; Jason Calloway, cello 3:55
03 String Quartet #1 - Hidden Wounds: III. Andante con moto Thomas Cabaniss Charleston Symphony String Quartet | Yuriy Bekker, Micah Gangwer - violins; Jan-Marie Joyce, viola; Jason Calloway, cello 4:39
04 String Quartet #1 - Hidden Wounds: IV. Con moto Thomas Cabaniss Charleston Symphony String Quartet | Yuriy Bekker, Micah Gangwer - violins; Jan-Marie Joyce, viola; Jason Calloway, cello 4:59
05 String Quartet #2 - Three Dance Grooves: I. With a groove Thomas Cabaniss Charleston Symphony String Quartet | Yuriy Bekker, Micah Gangwer - violins; Jan-Marie Joyce, viola; Jason Calloway, cello 3:57
06 String Quartet #2 - Three Dance Grooves: II. Energico Thomas Cabaniss Charleston Symphony String Quartet | Yuriy Bekker, Micah Gangwer - violins; Jan-Marie Joyce, viola; Jason Calloway, cello 5:18
07 String Quartet #2 - Three Dance Grooves: III. With intensity and passion Thomas Cabaniss Charleston Symphony String Quartet | Yuriy Bekker, Micah Gangwer - violins; Jan-Marie Joyce, viola; Jason Calloway, cello 4:06
08 String Quartet #5 - Four Elements: I. "Earth" Thomas Cabaniss Charleston Symphony String Quartet | Yuriy Bekker, Micah Gangwer - violins; Jan-Marie Joyce, viola; Jason Calloway, cello 3:46
09 String Quartet #5 - Four Elements: II. "Air" Thomas Cabaniss Charleston Symphony String Quartet | Yuriy Bekker, Micah Gangwer - violins; Jan-Marie Joyce, viola; Jason Calloway, cello 4:02
10 String Quartet #5 - Four Elements: III. "Fire" Thomas Cabaniss Charleston Symphony String Quartet | Yuriy Bekker, Micah Gangwer - violins; Jan-Marie Joyce, viola; Jason Calloway, cello 3:49
11 String Quartet #5 - Four Elements: IV. "Water" Thomas Cabaniss Charleston Symphony String Quartet | Yuriy Bekker, Micah Gangwer - violins; Jan-Marie Joyce, viola; Jason Calloway, cello 5:36

Recorded May 15-18, 2023 at the University of South Carolina School of Music in Columbia SC
Recording Session Producer Brad Michel
Recording Session Engineer Jeff Francis

Editing, Mixing & Mastering Brad Michel

Executive Producer Bob Lord

A&R Director Brandon MacNeil

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Audio Director Lucas Paquette
Production Manager Martina Watzková
Production Assistant Adam Lysák

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Chelsea Kornago

Artist Information

Thomas Cabaniss

Thomas Cabaniss


Thomas Cabaniss (b. Charleston SC, 1962) is a composer for dance, theater, film, and the concert stage. Cabaniss helped to create the Lullaby Project at Carnegie Hall, serving young parents in shelters, hospitals, and prisons with collaboratively created songs for their children. He has been teaching at Juilliard in the Dance Division since 1998 and in the Music Division since 2007. He served as education director for the New York Philharmonic and Music Animateur at the Philadelphia Orchestra. He has written articles for Chamber Music Magazine and the Teaching Artist Journal. His music is published by Boosey & Hawkes, European American Music, G. Schirmer, and musiCreate publiCations. He is a member of ASCAP and an associated artist of Target Margin Theater.

Yuriy Bekker


Yuriy Bekker, critically-acclaimed violinist and conductor, has been a mainstay of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra (CSO) in Charleston SC for 15 years. He has recently been named the CSO’s Artistic Director and also continues to lead as Concertmaster (2007) and Principal Pops Conductor (2016). Bekker previously served as the orchestra’s Acting Artistic Director from 2010-2014, playing a major role in the orchestra’s successful resurgence. 

Micah Gangwer

Micah Gangwer


Micah Gangwer is the Assistant Concertmaster of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and Concertmaster of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra. He attended Miami University for his undergraduate degree in violin performance, and studied at the University of Oklahoma and the University of South Carolina for graduate school. Gangwer began studying the violin at the age of 4 and has studied privately with violinists Stephan Shipps, William Terwilliger, Movses Pogossian, Harvey Thurmer, and Felicia Moye.

Gangwer made his solo debut performing with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra when he was 11 years old, and throughout his childhood and college he won a number of solo and concerto competitions. Solo appearances include concertos and concert pieces by Bach, Vivaldi, Tartini, Mozart, Beethoven, Wieniawski, Saint-Saens, Massenet, Fritz Kreisler, John Williams, Tan Dun, William Grant Still, Schnittke, Richter, and Samuel Barber with various university and professional orchestras across America, and he has also been showcased on public radio and television as a soloist. Recent solo engagements include performances of the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Violin Concerto with the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra and many solo appearances with the Charleston Symphony.

​As a chamber musician, Gangwer has played in concerts across America and Europe including performances for ambassadors, royalty, and heads of state. In 2003 Gangwer was a finalist in the internationally renowned Coleman Chamber Music Competition as a member of the Lennox Trio. Gangwer has participated and performed in many festivals and institutes including the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute, Bowdoin International Music Festival, Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music, and the Salzburg Chamber Music Institute. Gangwer also performed, toured, and recorded for three summers as a member of the Echternach Festival Orchestra of Luxembourg.

Jan-Marie Joyce


Jan-Marie Joyce has been Principal Violist of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra for 24 years. She has appeared frequently as a soloist, most recently performing Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with the CSO’s concertmaster Yuriy Bekker. She is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music where she studied under Stanley Konopka, Assistant Principal Violist of the Cleveland Orchestra, and the Cavani Quartet, the Cleveland Institute of Music’s resident quartet. While at CIM, she was the recipient of the Robert Vernon Prize in viola performance. She has also performed in masterclasses with Robert Vernon, former Principal Violist of the Cleveland Orchestra, and Dan Foster, Principal Violist of the National Symphony Orchestra.

Joyce is the former Principal Violist of the Canton (OH) Symphony and was a member of the Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra in Colorado for 23 years. She has performed with orchestras across the country including the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Opera, Naples Philharmonic, Akron Symphony, Youngstown Symphony, and Erie Philharmonic. In the summer of 2005, she was invited to perform in Seattle Opera’s production of Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen. She is currently on the faculty of the Charleston Chamber Music Intensive summer program where she teaches viola and coaches chamber music. She has previously served on the faculty of the College of Charleston and the Charleston International Music School.

A Maryland native, Joyce began practicing Suzuki violin at age 4 and switched to the viola at age 12. A committed teacher, her students have gone on to study at major conservatories and universities including Peabody Conservatory, University of Michigan, Eastman School of Music, Lynn Conservatory, and Carnegie Mellon University as well as receiving scholarships to summer festivals including Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival, Atlantic Music Festival, Encore Chamber Music Institute, Brevard Music Center, and Charleston Chamber Music Intensive.

Joyce can be heard on an album of chamber music for oboe and strings with members of her family. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Trumpet Performance.

Joyce is married to Charleston Symphony Orchestra’s bass trombonist Tom Joyce and has three children, Anthony, Emma, and Kenneth, and a dog, Noelle.

Jason Calloway


Cellist Jason Calloway has performed to acclaim throughout North America, the Caribbean, Europe, and the Middle East as soloist and chamber musician. He has appeared at festivals including Lucerne, Spoleto, Darmstadt, Klangspuren (Austria), Taipei, Acanthes (Frances), Perpignan, Valencia, Citta’ della Pieve (Italy), Jerash (Jordan), Casals (Puerto Rico), Cervantino (Mexico), Blossom, Brevard, Great Lakes, Kingston, Rockport, Sedona, and Sarasota. Currently cellist of the Banff award-winning Amernet String Quartet, Ensemble-in-Residence at Florida International University in Miami, Calloway was previously a member of the Naumburg award-winning Biava Quartet, formerly in residence at the Juilliard School.

He has collaborated in chamber music with members of the Cleveland, Curtis, Guarneri, and Juilliard quartets and with principal players of most of the world’s leading orchestras as well as with artists including Shmuel Ashkenasi, Robert deMaine, Roberto Diaz, Gary Hoffman, Ida Kavafian, Kim Kashkashian, Ronald Leonard, Ricardo Morales, Michael Tree, and Tokyo Quartet. Calloway gave his Carnegie Hall recital debut under the auspices of Artists International and has also been heard in New York at Alice Tully Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art, the Kosciuszko Foundation, and the 92nd Street Y; in Los Angeles at Disney Hall, the LA County Museum of Art, and the Skirball Center; in Washington DC at the Kennedy Center and Strathmore; in Philadelphia at the Academy of Music and the Kimmel Center; and live on NPR, WFMT (Chicago), KMZT (Los Angeles), WQXR (NYC), WFLN (Philadelphia), and on RAI television (Italy). He has recorded for the Bridge, Naxos, and Albany labels.

A devoted advocate of new music, Calloway has performed with leading ensembles around the world as well as alongside members of Ensemble Modern, Klangforum Wien, and the Arditti and JACK quartets, and with the New Juilliard Ensemble both in New York and abroad. Among the hundreds of premieres he has presented are solo and ensemble works of Berio, Knussen, Lachenmann, Pintscher, Tulve, and Tüür, and he has collaborated intensively with some of today’s most important composers including Birtwistle, Carter, Davidovsky, Dusapin, Henze, Hosokawa, Husa, Franke, Rihm, Roustom, Ueno, and Yannay. As a dedicated supporter of young composers, he has for many years presented concerts of solo cello works newly composed for him, most recently at Harvard, Temple, and Drew universities, and at Spoleto USA gave the premiere of Yanov-Yanovsky’s Hearing Solution for cello and ensemble in addition to recent appearances at Bowdoin College, the College of Charleston, Princeton University, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Calloway also maintains a close partnership with his FIU colleague Jacob David Sudol as a cello and electronics/computer duo.

Calloway prizes his work with Pierre Boulez and the Ensemble InterContemporain, both at the Lucerne Festival and at the Zug (Switzerland) Kunsthaus in Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and Serenade as part of a major Kandinsky/Gerstl exhibit, in addition to his collaborations with violinist Gilles Apap, tap dancer Savion Glover, and Cantor Netanel Hershtik. He is artistic director of Shir Ami (, an ensemble dedicated to the preservation and performance of Jewish art music suppressed by the Nazis and Soviets, and with which he appears frequently across the United States and in the group’s varied performances in Austria, Hungary, and Italy. He has also toured Estonia and Serbia in a duo with his wife, violinist Mari-Liis Päkk, which explores the rich contemporary literature for violin and cello. Calloway is a graduate of the Juilliard School and the University of Southern California and his teachers have included Ronald Leonard, Orlando Cole, Rohan de Saram, Lynn Harrell, Felix Galimir, and Luis Biava. Calloway performs on a 1992 Michèle Ashley cello, a copy of the famous Sleeping Beauty of Montagnana, formerly owned by his teacher, Orlando Cole. Calloway is a native of Philadelphia.

Charleston Symphony String Quartet


The Charleston Symphony String Quartet is one of the premiere ensembles of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra consisting of its principal string players. The CSO Quartet performs regularly throughout the greater Charleston area in South Carolina and is featured annually as part of the renowned Piccolo Spoleto Festival. In addition to a wide range of chamber music performances, the group is actively involved with arts education and performs for thousands of children in public schools every year. Members of the quartet include CSO core musicians Yuriy Bekker and Micah Gangwer (violins) and Jan-Marie Joyce (viola), joined by guest cellist Jason Calloway. Dedicated to championing a wide range of chamber music genres, FOUR ELEMENTS from Navona Records is the ensemble’s debut recording.


It can be a beautiful thing to come home. For the past several years I have been lucky enough to work with musicians of my hometown orchestra, the Charleston Symphony, and in education concerts that serve the schools of the Lowcountry. That led us to create a multi-year recording project focusing on my six string quartets. Three of them are in this first volume. The rest will follow soon. I hope you will enjoy these performances by the Charleston Symphony String Quartet as much as I enjoyed our collaboration in recording them. In May 2023 we trekked up to Columbia SC, where we were lucky to be hosted by engineer Jeff Francis and the University of South Carolina School of Music and joined by our producer, Brad Michel from PARMA Recordings. Special thanks to Philip Rothman of NYC Music Services for his excellent preparation of the score and parts.

— Thomas Cabaniss

Premiered at Ives Center for American Music, 1991

At 27 years old, I was just gaining the confidence to say to myself that I would pursue a life in music. At the time, aside from one tiny piano commission, all my professional jobs were either scores for the theater or teaching gigs. I had written an opera but was having no luck in getting it produced. But late at night, when all of the daily concerns had melted away, I worked on a string quartet. There was no group in mind, no performance in sight. I was lucky a year later to win a festival competition that came with a performance, but that was not why I wrote the piece. I wrote it to convince myself I was headed down the right road.

Inspiration came from two distinct experiences. First, Graham Vick gave me recordings of two quartets by Leos Janacek (The Kreutzer Sonata and Intimate Letters). The day I listened to them on a train ride north on the Hudson River was the day I determined I would write a string quartet. Second, challenged by an essay about racism by Wendell Berry (The Hidden Wound), I decided I would borrow the idea of his title for my quartet’s Janacekian subtitle: Hidden Wounds.

I. “Agitato” begins with a “wounded” motive in the cello that dominates the movement, returns in different keys and rhythmic variations, but remains essentially frozen. Sections start and end abruptly; the movement ends in uncertainty.

II. “Adagio” is based on motives derived from speech (another Janacekian borrowing) – this one comes from a scene in the Louis Malle film Au Revoir les Enfants In the scene, a Catholic father who has been hiding Jewish children in his school is being arrested. He says goodbye to the children (“Au revoir mes enfants,” which is played first by the second violin) and the children respond (“Au revoir, mon père,” played first by the viola). It is a heartbreaking scene, and as soon as the characters spoke their lines, I heard music.

III. The “Andante con moto” melody is from a song in my opera Denmark Vesey: “My Name’s Written in the Book of Life.” In this scene, the members of Vesey’s rebellion are making their pledges of loyalty to one another. The Charleston rhythm (3+3+2) is the underlying groove, and as a traitor slips away, the danger increases.

IV. In “Con moto,” conflicting themes and ideas swirl and transform, motives from earlier movements find their way back in, but no idea seems to be winning the day. No sooner does a wistful triple meter tune in C major take center stage, than the opening “wounded” motive returns and we are reminded of challenges that won’t recede. There is one last intake of breath before a brief ray of sunshine appears in the way of the final C major chord.

Premiered at The Juilliard School, May 2012

I am endlessly interested in how to understand the idea of “groove” in music — in Brahms and Mozart, in Wynton Marsalis and Keith Jarrett, in John Adams and Meredith Monk. My investigations have spilled over into the music I write, too. Each of the three movements in this shorter quartet features music that has a groove — a governing pulse, something musicians lock into in order to “stay in the pocket” as they perform. Each also started as something else before finding its way into this loose collection.

I. “With a groove” started as music for a crucial scene in my opera Denmark Vesey, the story of a thwarted slave rebellion in Charleston SC in 1822. Just as plans for the revolt are developing, a betrayal is in the works. There is an upper voice groove that starts off the beat and a lower voice groove that is a Charleston double clap, or doubled tresillo (3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 2 + 2). These two grooves battle each other, find ways to co-exist, and finally come to an uneasy stand-off.

II. “Energico” started as a response to the groove in Schubert’s brief Quartettsatz and in Paul Simon’s album Rhythm of the Saints. I was asking the question: “what if Schubert and Paul Simon sat in my living room and tried to create a piece together? What would it sound like?”

III. “With intensity and passion” started as a duet for the choreographer Zvi Gotheiner, in a piece called Other Marches. In this movement, each instrument has its own particular rhythmic groove, to which it holds, stubbornly. By the end, the cello has worked its will on the rest of the group, and the others join in, more out of desperation than relief.

Premiered in Lancaster SC, May 21, 2023

In the “first vaccine” summer of the pandemic, my family and I were squirreled away in the country outside of New York City. We were still reeling from a number of personal losses that came just before and during the lockdown, and perhaps the most shocking one for me personally came in mid-July, when my friend Graham Vick died of Covid-19. Graham was a celebrated opera director, but more than that he was a close family friend who followed and supported my work as a composer. That Spring I released the recording of Tiny Bits of Outrageous Love for piano four hands, and he wrote me a beautiful letter about it from his hideaway on the isle of Crete. He and his work were a constant inspiration to me, and I was looking forward to sharing so much more.

It was in this state of sorrow and loss that I began working on my fifth string quartet. I thought of Graham’s last year on Crete, where he was surrounded by the Mediterranean and its old world vibrations. It led me to the classical “four elements” – earth, air, fire, and water. I also thought of the Hindemith & Balanchine ballet “The Four Temperaments,” with its four classical Greek internal states (melancholic, sanguinic, phlegmatic, and choleric). And perhaps most urgently, I was distressed by our world’s environmental crises. I wanted to bring attention to the importance of those essential natural forces.

Since the elements don’t have a traditional order, I made my own. I placed earth at the beginning, followed by air (with its evocation of clouds); next, fire (the scherzo); and water at the end (an expression of what we humans mostly are).

I. Grounded. “Earth” starts with a bit of funk in A minor, alternating with lyrical hocketing, and then uses a little modal mixture to pass swiftly through A major to end in D.

II. Lightly, freely, with air in the bow. “Air” is a canon of clouds and whispers in Phrygian mode.

III. Burning. “Fire” is a scherzo in E minor.

IV. Fluid; out of time. “Water” is a love song in D flat major, reflecting the water cycle. This movement begins with “one drop” (a single D flat) and builds into the song. It is interrupted by a series of waterfalls and ends exactly as it began, but in reverse, returning to the single D flat in the cello.


The Charleston Symphony Quartet recording the end of String Quartet #5 – IV. “Water”