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J. Lee Graham

Quartet in G minor for 2 Violas and 2 Violoncelli

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Quartet in G minor for 2 Violas and 2 Violoncelli

Movements:

1.  Allegro energico (Sonata form)

2.  Andante un poco adagio (Sonata form)

3.  Menuetto:  Allegro

4.  Presto (Rondo form – ABACABA with Coda)

Style:  Late Classical, ca. 1790-1800

Composed:  3 August – 6 December, 2018 at Austin

Here they are then,…dearest Friend, these six children of mine. They are, it is true, the fruit of a long and laborious endeavour, yet the hope inspired in me by several Friends that it may be at least partly compensated encourages me, and I flatter myself that this offspring will serve to afford me solace one day.  –W.A. Mozart, Published Letter of Dedication, Six String Quartets to Haydn, 1 September, 1785 

I quote Mozart here because his sentiments are very much my own regarding the Six Quartets I composed last year for 2 Violas and 2 Violoncelli, of which the present posting is but one example; though it is one of the best, choosing it to post from among the others in the set was like choosing a favourite of my children.  Though Mozart expresses himself with a humility uncommon for him, he clearly was proud of his work, as I am of mine.  Indeed, I consider my Quartets to be my magnum opus to date – the most important and highest quality work I have ever produced, and the crowning achievement of decades as a composer.   

Having researched the matter to some degree, to my knowledge no other composer has attempted a work for this combination of instruments, hence mine are likely unique in the chamber music repertoire.  Despite being unusual, I have found the combination of pairs of violas and ‘cellos, though not without its challenges and limitations, to be very successful and pleasing, and I hope you will agree.  The 1st Viola and 1st ‘Cello take the lead a fair amount of the time, and the instruments also operate in pairs as one might expect, but much of the time the ensemble is a cohesive whole, with all the instruments more or less equal. 

The character of this work is fraught with frenetic energy and angst, particularly in the fast and furious outer movements – even in moments of relative calm, the forward motion is relentless.  The easygoing second movement is a comparative walk in the park, moving leisurely along.  The third movement is a nervous, jumpy minuet, punctuated by forte diminished chords; the Trio alla ghironda (in the style of a hurdy gurdy) is characterized by a harmonized melody in G-Lydian mode in the violas, accompanied by a drone in the ‘cellos for a rustic sound. 

Fun fact about this piece:  I conceived the final Rondo during a Nine Inch Nails set at a rock festival in San Antonio!  And another:  I composed the first half of the opening movement entirely in my head before I began writing it down. 

I’ll be very interested to know what people think of this piece and the combination of these instruments, and I hope listening to it will be a pleasant adventure into a different sound-world.

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I don't really know what to say.

This is a spectacular work. The instruments are interesting and blended perfectly. 

On 1/30/2019 at 2:14 AM, J. Lee Graham said:

and the crowning achievement of decades as a composer.

Certainly, your decades as a composer have been worth it.

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@aMusicComposer  Thank you very much.  I'm so glad you enjoyed it, and that you found the ensemble well blended.  That was a major concern.  I may post more of these later, but I didn't want to saturate the site all at once.  This one was the last to be conceived, and is among the best, so it's a good representative of the set.  

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This is really good! I love the power and the vigor in the 1st movement! It kind of reminds me of the string quartets of early Beethoven or Haydn or Late Mozart, in terms of emotions and style. Also, you made excellent use of the unusual arrangement! I would love to hear your other quartets.

Best,

Theo

Edited by Theodore Servin
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@Theodore Servin  Thanks so much!  Yes, that opening movement is very vigourous - the last movement too, actually, though maybe a little lighter touch.  I'm honoured that you compare me to Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven in any sense, so thanks again, and I'm really glad you thought the ensemble worked well.  I may indeed post some of the others in the set.   

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This is a great work sculpted in this style, it's very pleasant to listen to and quite accessible; it's got all the great characteristics of enjoyable, serious, light, great music. Great job!

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@Jared Steven Destro  Many thanks!  I find it very interesting that you should find anything about this piece "light," as I feel it's one of the heaviest things I've ever written.  But relative to some other things one might hear, it probably is very light indeed.  At any rate, I'm very glad you found it a pleasant thing to listen to.  🙂  

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3 hours ago, J. Lee Graham said:

@Jared Steven Destro  Many thanks!  I find it very interesting that you should find anything about this piece "light," as I feel it's one of the heaviest things I've ever written.  But relative to some other things one might hear, it probably is very light indeed.  At any rate, I'm very glad you found it a pleasant thing to listen to.  🙂  

 

Well, either way, it is something to which I can listen for quite some time! It has some good contrast so I'd be interested to see how this could be applied to a large ensemble in the future.

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1 hour ago, Jared Steven Destro said:

It has some good contrast so I'd be interested to see how this could be applied to a large ensemble in the future.

I should probably post more of my orchestral stuff in this style to give people an idea of how I handle larger forces.  One of my six symphonies, perhaps, or my Sinfonia Concertante.  Thank you very much again!  

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