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Quadrants - Volume 2
Paul OSTERFIELD (b. 1973)
Khamsin [11:28]
David T. BRIDGES
This Fragmented Old Man [4:58]
Ferdinando De SENA
String Quartet No. 1 [11:59]
L Peter DEUTSCH (b. 1946)
Departure [20:44]
Katherine PRICE (b. 1992)
Hymnody
Marvin LAMB (b. 1946)
Lamentations [16:35]
Pedroia String Quartet
rec. 2017/18, Future Productions, Roslindale, USA
NAVONA NV6184 [73:14]

You may be thinking to yourself, WHO?, and when it comes to these composers and their works, I can honestly say that I was faced with exactly the same question. There are no notes, no composer biographies, no details about the music and not really any information about the performers, other than they are “Boston’s acclaimed Pedroia String Quartet”. This is appalling, especially when you consider that if you go on the leading online retailer this disc is at premium price, well it is in the UK at least, over 21, for which I would expect a lot better, it certainly has put me off getting any further Navona discs. Yes, there is a link to ‘Additional Album Content’, but the notes provided there are lamentable at best, again no biographies, not even the years of birth for the composers, detailed Google searches required on behalf of the listener, this is a shame as the music is both interesting and enjoyable.

Paul Osterfield was born in 1973 and studied the cello at school going on to study the violin, piano and conducting at high school. Khamsin was composed in 1997 with the title referring to the hot dust storms that blow across northern Africa, it is composed in four parts and a coda. It begins with quite intense plucked strings and aggravated bowed chords leading to more agitated tonal music. The second section is calm with sustained long notes, this is followed by a more dancelike section before the energetic music of the works opening section returns. It is an interesting and compact work, one which is full of rhythmic intensity and complex tonal structures, but one which is also very approachable and listenable to. For more information about the composer and his music try www.paulosterfield.com where you will find more biographical information and notes on his music.

The second work on the disc is This Fragmented Old Man by David T. Bridges, commissioned by the Zukovsky Quartet it was composed in 2009. Information about the composer is scant with even his own website not giving his year or place of birth, he does however, seem to be at least New York based, where he is identified as a composer and clarinettist. He has earned his degrees in music theory and in composition from New York institutes and has become a pedagogue in his own right. The work seems to have been his only work to have been recorded and is based upon the children’s counting song “This Old Man”, it is short and spikey, with the opening presenting the tune simultaneously in pizzicato and bowed form. This work is interesting and has a degree of humour running through it, making it attractive and accessible. For more information on the composer see www.davidtbridges.com .

Ferdinando De Sena, known as Fred, was born in New York and now teaches composition and electronic music at the New World School of the Arts in Miami, Florida. His String Quartet No. 1 was written as a response to the death of his mother in law, with each of the three movements bearing a title that calls to mind pieces of plainchant, with each dealing with the pain of loss and mourning, whilst also reflecting our reluctance to let the memory of a loved one go. There are some lovely plaintive passages here whilst De Sena also manages to express the stress of loss through the way that he ramps up the tension through passages of plucked playing by some members of the quartet set against the bowed strings of the others. Something I can identify with, having been to six funerals already this year. This is a work which I am more than happy to have on my shelves. For further information on the composer I recommend you go to his website at www.desenamusic.org.

The next composer on this disc is L Peter Deutsch, he too is represented by a multi movement work entitled Departure. He is one of only two of the six composers represented here to have a Wikipedia entry which makes it easier to find information. He was born in in Boston, Massachusetts in 1946, he is primarily known as a computer software developer and although a choral singer, he has only taken up music seriously relatively lately, entering a postgraduate course in music at California State University, gaining his MA in 2011. The work is perhaps the most traditional on this disc, it has the feel of 20thC tonal string quartet writing with the pizzicato element of the second movement reminding me of the Ravel Quartet. The work has some nice developmental passage work, I particularly like the third movement entitled Leave-Taking, as it represents the pain of saying goodbye.

Katherine Price is perhaps the youngest composer here and was born in Indiana in 1992 and is a soprano in the Chicago Chorale. She began composing seriously at the age of 13, with the music of the Anglican tradition and American folk music playing a part in her development as a composer. She states that Britten, Barber, Florence Price and John Tavener are influences on her compositions. Hymnody is a short seven minute work, which for me is over too quickly, perhaps the works title comes from her love of church music, but this piece, whilst it could be said to have a chorale like development, also reminds me of the tonal development of say Jennifer Higdon.

It is difficult to keep up the intensity in a seventeen-minute slow movement, especially with only four instruments, but that is what Marvin Lamb does here. Like Deutsch, Lamb has a Wikipedia entry, perhaps it is because they appear to be the two oldest composers represented here, but I was glad to find some more detailed information about them. He was born in Jacksonville, Texas in 1946 and received both his BA and MA in Texas, moving to Illinois for his Doctorate. Composed in 2008 Lamentations, for string quartet, is a quite remarkable work; as already indicated it is quite an intense work with the quartet writing producing some different tonal blends, even sounding electronic at times, and shows some fine developments in the thematic material which makes this my favourite piece on this disc.

The Playing of the Pedroia String Quartet is excellent throughout, they are presented with some quite technical and challenging passages which they overcome with aplomb. They have an ability to switch between the diverse styles of the six composers effortlessly and get the best from each of these works. The recorded sound is very good and quite natural, with the only drawback to this recording being Navona’s total lack of presentation values, if this is typical of their recordings, well I don’t think I will be getting any more!

Stuart Sillitoe

 

 



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