String Quartet: From the Other Side
for String Quartet (1990, rev. 2018)
String Quartet: From the Other Side was composed in 1990, following a commission by the University of Arkansas for the Quapaw Quartet. Premiered in February 1991 by that ensemble in several locations across the state of Arkansas, including Fayetteville and Little Rock, the work was subsequently performed in Minnesota and Wisconsin by the Highland Quartet, which also recorded the work on CD (KMS-1). Composed in homage to Dmitri Shostakovich, arguably the greatest composer of string quartets in the twentieth century, the work is cast in four movements – each of which is a commentary on significant events in the great composer’s life: 1917 – the year of the communist revolution; 1936 – the year of the famous “chaos instead of music” article in Pravda; 1948 – the year the Union of Soviet Composers declared him an “enemy of the people,” and 1975 – the year he passed away. Two Shostakovich themes are employed in this commentary: the famous D-S-C-H theme from the eighth quartet (and elsewhere), and a prominent theme from the thirteenth symphony.
In retrospect, the quartet may also be a commentary on the pivotal events of 1989 – 1990, namely the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the end of the cold war. These events, though great for some, have not brought about an end to suffering from injustice. In this work’s end, all elements of emotional struggle are stripped from the quartet’s sound as minuscule utterances from open strings fade into an abyss of total silence.