The Kernis Project: Debussy
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Label: Sono Luminus
Cat No: DSL92233
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 14th June 2019
WorksString Quartet in G minor, op.10
String Quartet no.3 'River'
ArtistsJasper String Quartet
Six years later, after performing and recording his first two Quartets and organizing the commission, we received the first movement of his Third Quartet “River”. As the movements accumulated in our inbox, so did our sense of excitement and dread. It was clear that this piece surpassed its two preceding quartets in complexity and difficulty. The route forward was clear enough, but still daunting. Practice, rehearse, repeat. Through the spring and into the summer the piece started to take shape. Coalescing first a little at a time – glimmers of cleverness, brilliance, atmosphere amid the musical and technical challenges. As those moments grew to sections and then movements that began to make sense, we started to build them into the larger arc.
The quartet is subtitled “River”, an analogy for the constancy of change in our lives. The music too is constantly evolving, from moment to moment never predictable, never repeating itself. The flow of ideas isn’t one but four-dimensional, swirling constantly backward and forward in time and space. Yet there is a calculation of purpose, a consideration of form and care to structure that keeps the music grounded and allows a story to build out of the organic chaos.
The parallels between this music and Debussy’s iconic quartet are both coincidental and foreseeable. Programmed together before we knew anything of what Kernis’s quartet would be, the Debussy was nevertheless a perfect fit. Perhaps any quartet so carefully crafted and so imaginative would have illuminated parallels with Aaron’s new piece, yet it seems the two works share a specific ethos in their style and execution - both sharply bold and thoughtfully humble.
‘My 3rd string quartet (“River”) is a significant departure from my earlier two quartets, which looked to the distant past for form and inspiration. Instead, this new work dispenses with classical structure and influences almost completely, touching continually on processes of change and flux.
‘Far more at issue here are literary influences which helped shape and color the emotional tone of its five movements and prompted countless reflections on compositional process at this time in my life.
‘This new quartet looks at change, flow and flux of musical materials and information rather than the constancy of harmony, rhythmic and formal structures that my earlier quartets embrace.
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