Lawrence Dillon was the youngest composer to earn a doctorate
at Juilliard, and is now composer-in-residence at the University
of Carolina School of the Arts. This disc is devoted to his
The quartets are programmed in reverse order, beginning with
the most recent, the Fourth. This is subtitled ‘The Infinite
Sphere’, a reference to Blaise Pascal, and is cast in two movements
or ‘Rounds’, with each Round subdivided. It opens ebulliently,
though there are some folklorically inflected passages, an ingenious
double canon, and hints of a hoe-down, before the ushering in
of a three-voiced Round, and after that a fast-moving and amusing
fugue. The second movement is a touch more concise, a tremolando
Round followed by a so-called (in the notes) ‘rock bacchanal’
(well, ok...), which generates plenty of excitement.
The Third Quartet (‘Air’) was written in 2005, and lasts eleven
minutes. After a cool opening an aria emerges over cello pizzicato.
There are plenty of contrasts and an appropriately ‘airy’ freedom
to the writing and textures. The mimicking of the human breath
that follows is an interesting idea, though not wholly successful;
it is however the sonorities and sounds evoked that are the
most catchy thing about this work. The Second Quartet is subtitled
‘Flight’ – clearly he is interested in the elements, and in
motion, and each of the six movements has fugal elements. It’s
a big work, as big as the Fourth, but less immediately appealing
possibly because, for all the quick, concentrated scherzo-like
movements, the writing is not as memorable as it was later to
become, and inclined to be a touch gestural. That said, the
fifth fugal movement, Swings, is a total charmer.
What Happened (2005) sees the addition of pianist Benjamin
Hochman in a work long on a terse sense of incipient excitement.
It’s in sonata form, in three named movements, the central one
of which sports some fine hymnal warmth.
The Fourth Quartet was commissioned and premiered by the Daedalus,
and they are clearly wholly attuned to Dillon’s idiom. Good