TO . . ., 3
Veddy British Music
(Kraft) <> Going Into 'Understated Drive' (Kroll), 6
DOTTED NOTES from … Kraft, Kroll, Greenfest, Hickey, BLC, 16
SPEAKING OUT! Thoughts on the Pulitzer Prize, 17
THE PRINTED WORD Berger's Reflections (Kraft), 20
THE SCOREBOARD Sperry's Encores (Drogin), 21
Mini but Not Mousy
(Cleary) <> Bell's Echoes of Bela (Cleary) <> Just a Few Will Do (Cleary),
RECENT RELEASES, 24
THE PUZZLE CORNER, 25
COMPOSER INDEX, 27
BULLETIN BOARD, 27
Modern Orchestra Project
Shadows: Laurel Ann Maurer
Review of CD
ROBERT STARER: STRING QUARTET NOS. 1-3
Miami String Quartet
CRI CD 856
The late Robert Starer, Viennese-born but long resident in the United States (and formerly a faculty member at Juilliard, Brooklyn College, and the City University of New York), presents a solid trio of string quartets on this release. These span a surprising chronology, the first quartet being a youthful essay dating from his early 20s, the last two not composed until nearly fifty years later and within a year of each other.
All show a certain affinity for the harmonic language of Bartok and to a lesser extent Hindemith. In other words, these works utilize dissonant verticals (while occasionally admitting triadic sonorities) grounded within a relatively tonal large-scale underpinning. But Starer imparts his own distinctive stamp on the sound world herethis does not sound like "warmed over" anything. The second quartet (1995) is the most neoclassic in structure, cleaving closely to a 19th-century oriented four-movement format: sonata-like opener, scherzo and trio, slow movement, and attention-grabbing finale. But rather than museum mustiness, one feels a sense of clean, urgent unfolding and mastery of material that is extremely compelling. Wide-eyed excitement and gleeful tweaking of the status quo pervades the tripartite first quartet (1947). As an example, Starer clearly enjoys peppering his otherwise au courant last movement with jazzy syncopations and walking bass pizzicatos. Perhaps the best of all these pieces, Quartet No. 3 (1996) demonstrates a remarkably tight handling of motivic configuration; in that sense, it stands in relation to the rest of his quartet oeuvre as Bartok's taut fourth quartet does to his cornerstone set of six. And Starer's layout here is highly imaginative; this single movement entry divides into seven distinct sections (none of which obviously correspond to traditional schemas) while expertly delineating a cogent large-scale sense of balance. This masterful piece stands proudly next to the best examples of literature.
The Miami String Quartet, for whom the composer wrote his second and third quartets, performed excellently. Fine ensemble blend, natty finger technique, and carefully considered pacing are the order of the day. Sound and editing are good. This fine disc is strongly recommended.