When hearing the works of a contemporary composer for the first
time, my initial inclination is to search for influences in
the music. But these string quartets by David L. Post resist
easy analysis to that end. I can hear snatches of a sort of
generic American style here, perhaps vague suggestions of Barber,
Diamond or Quincy Porter, or even Ives. But there’s a
slightly cosmopolitan character here too: once in a while you
might even hear a faint echo of Vaughan Williams. But, really,
none of these influences are dominant, or particularly significant
in Post’s music. What some listeners may find significant,
however, is that Post exhibits a spiritual, though not stylistic
connection, to Shostakovich in his tendency toward dark moods
and sinister undercurrents. Indeed, and Post’s scherzos
and burlesques aren’t jokes but seem to slash away at
something, and his moments of merriment often are either fleeting
or seem headed toward some disaster or disappointment. Among
Post’s teachers was composer Ralph Shapey, but you hear
nothing in the way of influence from him in these quartets either.
In the end then, one must conclude that Post is largely his
He has written the notes to this album and in them states his
affinity for the string quartet idiom, which he believes to
be a very high art form in music. His music is tonal and quite
approachable, with tunes you may well remember, even if they
aren’t extremely catchy.
The Second Quartet leads off and you immediately notice a dark
sense of urgency in the first movement, marked Moderato. The
ensuing Scherzo opens with bold pizzicato notes from the cello
and then the violins and viola slash and shriek with sinister
delight. This might be the most compelling movement on the disc.
The Molto lento that follows is slow and eerie, with fleeting
phrases of sweetness and hope souring and despairing. The Allegro
agitato finale begins boldly, but in the darker spirit of the
Scherzo, and the mood throughout remains mostly grim.
The Fantasia on a Virtual Choral was inspired by Joseph Suk’s
Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale ‘Saint Wenceslas’.
It is a brighter work, but its upside-down design, with development
preceding exposition, may seem a bit confusing to listeners.
It comes across as a pleasant but rather minor work.
The Fourth String Quartet, which comes next on the disc, comprises
three movements, each depicting the image in a photograph taken
by Cuban-born Massachusetts photographer Abelardo Morell. The
three movements here carry as subtitles the names of the Morell
photographs: 1.) Camera Obscura Image of Brookline View in Brady's
Room; 2.) Book Pietà; and 3.) Map in Sink. Again, the
moods are dark, and the music in the first two movements is
mostly moderately paced, but with the opening panel intense
and mysterious. The middle movement is quite lovely in its depiction
of the photo of El Greco’s Pietà. The finale opens
with an insistent ostinato that imparts a feeling of urgency;
gradually a sense of desperation develops, relieved only when
the closing chords emphatically shut the door.
The single-movement Third String Quartet consists of four inner
sections. It begins in a relatively bright mood that occasionally
yields to dark clouds. As the work progresses the sense of hope
that appeared at the outset and in a few episodes of jollity
fades, and grayness turns to darkness and darkness to utter
blackness. The composer mentions that the work was begun “at
the beginning of the Iraqi war.” He elaborates no further
on the work’s connection to the war, but one might just
sense a war-inspired link here and apparent negative feelings
about that once bloody and ferocious conflict.
The membership of the Hawthorne String Quartet is drawn from
the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The Hawthorne play each work
here with utter commitment. The composer wrote the Fourth Quartet
at the suggestion of the ensemble’s violist, and presumably
Post has a good relationship with the group. In any event, the
Hawthorne play spiritedly throughout, delivering performances
that would seem hard to surpass for years to come. Naxos provides
excellent sound. These quartets are worthwhile compositions,
and chamber music mavens willing to sample fairly approachable
contemporary works should find the disc rewarding.
see also review by Byzantion
(February 2011 Bargain of the Month)