This work was completed in June and July of 2020; some sketches had been
made around 2006 and subsequently completely forgotten.
The overall trajectory of the Quartet is a form of the "darkness-into-light" trope, beginning in a very volatile and unclear flavor of C major, each successive movement becoming clearer and more stable.
The first movement begins with a pure descending scale of C major, which promptly lands in very muddy water at the bottom, but gradually fights its way to a calm ending. The rapid tonal sleight-of-hand is enabled by the fact that most of the motivic material is based upon fourths and minor seconds, rather than the thirds, fifths, sixths, and diatonic scale fragments that allow Classical tonal music to move more deliberately and with more signposting.
The Scherzo tries to assert the home key by using loud repeated chords in a stomping dance rhythm, but the fourths and semitones are continually whirling the music away.
The slow movement, in G, employs more diatonic material, using notes out of the scale to reinforce the key rather than casting doubt upon it.
The Finale begins with a four-voice fugal exposition with regular tonic and dominant entries in C. Exuberant transition material is even more diatonic, but is followed by a reappearance of the fourths and semitones from the first two movements. These are gradually integrated with the diatonic material and the work ends quietly, with the instruments muted in a high register.
Copyright © 2015 -- 2020 Frank Wilhoit