John Harbison: String Quartet No. 6

2Vn, Va, Vc

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Additional Info

  • Composer
    John Harbison
  • Publisher
    Associated Music Publishers Inc
  • Arrangement
    String Quartet (STR QUARTET)
  • Format
    Score and Parts
  • Genre
    20th Century


For string quartet. Harbison's String Quartet No. 6 was commissioned by the Lark Quartet, Telegraph Quartet, Tanglewood Music Center with the generous support of the Merwin Geffen, M.D. and Norman Solomon, M.D. New Commissions Fund, and the Ariel Quartet through support from Ann and Harry Santen and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Composer note:: String Quartet No. 6 was commissioned by a consortium that includes the Lark, Ariel, and Telegraph quartets, and the Tanglewood Music Center. It is in four movements:

1. Lontano: At first, from a distance, then closer but still not joining, the first violinist stays physically, psychologically and temperamentally distant from the string trio, which plays in a relaxed, rural style.

2. Canto sospeso: A long melody is shared, explored, then suspended, eventually displaced and nearly abandoned completely. It reappears as a memory at the very end.

3. Soggetti cavati: Framing this brief episode, two sets of initials representing two American patriarchs. Distant point of orientation—the found object and the forthright plan.

4. Conclusioni provvisorie: Again the solo violin and the string trio, here in an encounter, at odds, but eventually revealing their common source in some very early vocal pieces which share the same words.

Performance Note: In movement I, the first violinist first performs apart from the other players, adjusted to the conditions of the hall, as follows: Station I: offstage, probably with open door, or within the hall but sonically and visually removed Station II: closer, but sill distinctly removed from the others (1/2 normal sound) Station III: closer, but still distinctly independent (3/4 normal presence) Station IV: standing next to normal place Station V: seated in the quartet

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