Arnold Rosner: Chamber Music, Vol. II



Chamber Music of Arnold Rosner


Volume II


Ad Hoc String Quartet


Mark Ottesen, viola






When writing my Quartet No. 2, at the age of 17, it was my definite intention to achieve a structural and polyphonic sophistication my chamber music had lacked heretofore. Almost all the thematic material in the one-movement design derives from the opening cello melody and its counter-subjects in the first bars of fugato.




Most will hear an unofficial four-movement sequence as the piece proceeds. In the first part the tempo gradually quickens, and the character changes from pensive to angular. The second part is modal in style and "religioso" in attitude; it has its own ternary shape with a lighter middle part. The third part is in a faster 6/8 meter with rondo scheme. It starts in a scherzando mood but thickness and intensity build along the way. This rushes into the fourth part, starting very loudly and then receding eerily. Some of the music from the first part is restated and there is a solemn chordal conclusion.




Some alert listeners will note that the first countersubject against the main theme (bars 58) resembles a figure in the Dies Irae of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem. This melody gets some prominent harmonized treatment in the second part of the quartet and is really just a downward minor scale with a slight rhythmic shift. In any case, I am not guilty! This quartet was finished in April, 1963, and, while it may be a classic now, the War Requiem had not at that time been heard in the Western hemisphere.




While virtually all my music may be thought of as neo-Romantic in character, if not always in syntax, the Quartet No. 3 of 1965 may represent the clearest such example. Accordingly there is considerable expressive range, both within each movement and overall, as well as an unabashed willingness to write melodies that are songful and intense.




While there is no true "slow movement", the character quickens as the music progresses from the brooding of the first movement to the exuberance of the third. If this sounds overly predictable, one should note that the middle parts of each movement provide some balancing contradictions. In particular, the second movement has outer sections in a fairly light 6/8, but a middle section in a heavier, rustic irregular count (9/8=2+2+2+3) which may suggest dance rhythms in ethnic music from such places as Yugoslavia or Brazil. The middle section of the third movement is actually the slowest music in the whole work; the middle section of the first is among the fastest. I suppose honesty requires that I report the first movement is in a bona fide sonata form, replete with "official" pitch-center relationships. I don't know is this is worthy of praise or blame.




When I revised this quartet in 1992, it was shortened by some six minutes; but at 24 minutes, it still ranks as my longest. Otherwise, the revision mainly involved some internal counter-melodies and changes in phrasing, though the 9/8 middle section of the second movement is entirely new.




My String Quartet No. 5 is, at the time of this writing, my last work in the genre. It was written in 1977. In it I strove for an atmosphere concurrently mysterious and warm, essentially tranquil but not without some challenges and climaxes. If this suggests the state of mind one reaches in meditation or certain dreams, or perhaps that lightness some individuals describe after heart-stoppages and resuscitations, I may have achieved my aim.




The structure is a one-movement introduction and moto perpetuo. The first part alternates modal melodies over drones, with stylized passages of three-voice harmony. (The aficionado of early music will detect a resemblance to organum or clausula.) The second part keeps the players very active with shimmering, quasi-coloristic passage work, which, as busy as it is, should never sound hectic or harsh. However interesting such purely textural music may be, I never resort (as my minimalist colleagues do) to allowing it to retain the main spotlight; in String Quartet No. 5 and other such works, the patterns serve as a screen of accompaniment for more truly melodic and chordal material.




When my String Quartet No. 4 was performed and recorded by the Alorian Quartet at Oberlin College in 1991, invaluable assistance was provided by Jeff Irvine and Lynne Ramsey, who are husband and wife as well as violists. As a token of appreciation, I wrote my Duet for Violas. Not knowing their tastes, I decided to write in a style similar to that of the quartet they had come to know. Accordingly, the music is contrapuntal and fairly severe. The work lasts some eight minutes in a slow-fast sequence. Listeners who know my music may find it hard to believe that the Duet begins with a 12-note permutation, or row, but I assume they will be relieved to know that nothing in the continuation and development resembles serial treatment.




The genesis of the wonderful relationship between the Ad Hoc String Quartet and my music was the performance of the Duet at the International Viola Congress in Evanston, Illinois, in June 1993. The program editor was none other than violinist Paul Vanderwerf, who came across my entry, sought out more information and ultimately telephoned me to ask if my string quartet music might be available to his ensemble. The rest, as the saying goes, is history...




Notes © 1996 by Arnold Rosner




Arnold Rosner (b. 8 November 1945) is a prolific American composer whose works have been performed in the United States, Europe and Israel. His works exceed 100 in number and steer clear, generally, of both the post-serial avant-garde movement of the 1960's and the minimalist movement which followed it. His treatment of harmony and counterpoint, along with the occasional recourse to an ethnic, Middle Eastern flavor, places his music in the esthetic milieu of Paul Hindemith, Ernest Bloch and Alan Hovhaness.




Rosner is currently on the faculty of Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York, where he teaches both standard and ethnic music. Having composed since the age of nine, he received advanced degrees from the State University of New York at Buffalo while studying with Leo Smit, Allen Sapp, Henri Pousseur and Lejaren Hiller, from all of whom, in his own words, "I learned practically nothing."




Founded in 1990, the Ad Hoc String Quartet has established itself as one of the Chicago area's leading chamber ensembles. With an emphasis on music by living composers, and on works for quartet and voice, their energy and enthusiasm create a sense of familiarity about new compositions, while bringing fresh ideas to well-known ones. AHSQ is also active in commissioning and encouraging new works.




The Quartet has been featured with the Northwestern University Philharmonia and the North Shore Chamber Orchestra, and performed with Guarneri Quartet violist Michael Tree at the 1993 International Viola Congress. Recently, AHSQ was spotlighted on the Studs Terkel radio program, performed on a series of live concerts inaugurating the new WFMT studios, and appeared on the Chicago 20th Century Music series at the Harold Washington Public Library.




In 1995, Albany Records released the first commercial recording by AHSQ, the String Quartet No. 1 by Stephen Shewan (Albany TROY149). In September, 1993, AHSQ gave the world première performance of Arnold Rosner's String Quartet No. 3 and in February, 1996, premièred his Piano Quintet No. 2, op. 103, with pianist Roderick Teh.




Paul Vanderwerf, violin, holds music degrees from Northwestern University, Occidental College, and Interlochen Arts Academy. He has toured throughout Europe as a member of the Chicago Sinfonietta, and is principal second violin with the Chicago String Ensemble. He has performed with the Ars Viva Orchestra, Ravinia Festival Orchestra, and the Peninsula Music Festival.




David Belden, violin, is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he received his undergraduate degree in violin performance. He has performed with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, the Anchorage Festival of Music, the Chicago String Ensemble, and the Chicago Sinfonietta on their recent tours of Germany, Switzerland, the Kennedy Center, and the Canary Islands.




Diedre Buckley, viola, holds a doctorate in music performance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She attended California State University-Dominguez Hills, the University of Southern California, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She currently performs with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Madison Symphony, and Dubuque Symphony, with which she is principal violist.




James Fellenbaum, cello, is the Director of Orchestral Activities and Lecturer at North Park College in Chicago, and Artistic Director of the North Shore Chamber Orchestra in Evanston, IL, where he resides. He is currently principal cellist of the Southwest Symphony Orchestra and assistant principal of the Civic Orchestra, both in Chicago.




Mark Ottesen, guest violist, was a founding member of the Ad Hoc String Quartet. He is currently principal violist with the Charlotte Symphony, where he is on faculty at University of North Carolina and Davidson College. While in Chicago, he earned a Master of Music degree at Northwestern University and was principal with the Northwestern University Symphony and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.








Music of Arnold Rosner on Compact Disc




Albany TROY163 (Chamber Music, Vol. I)


Of Numbers and of Bells, op. 79


Nightstone, op. 73


French Horn Sonata, op. 71


Cello Sonata No. 1, op. 41






Laurel LR849CD


Concerto Grosso No. 1 in d, op. 60


Five Meditations, op. 36


Prelude to Act II of Chronicle of Nine, op. 81


A Gentle Musicke, op. 44


Magnificat, op.72






Opus One CD150


String Quartet No. 4, op. 56






Harmonia Mundi HMU 906012


Responses, Hosanna and Fugue, op. 67






Gasparo GSCD 266


Musique de Clavecin, op. 61




Gasparo GSCD 289


Sonatine d'Amour, op. 83






Recorded 28-30 May 1994 in Northminster Presbyterian Church, Evanston, Illinois




Location Engineer: Buzz Kemper · Digital Editing: Ed Rohrlich




Produced for compact disc by John Proffitt.




Cover photo of Arnold Rosner by Irene Rosner David.




The String Quartets of Arnold Rosner are published by Horizon Bay Music,




3311 Shore Parkway #2A, Brooklyn, NY 11235.






Chamber Music of Arnold Rosner




Volume II




String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 19 (1963) (17:35)


Adagio; l'istesso tempo ma poco leggiero; allegro scherzando, quasi presto e con spirito; adagio




String Quartet No. 3, Op. 32 (1965, rev. 1992) (24:29)


I. Moderato; allegro; moderato (10:48)


II. Allegretto (4:05)


III. Allegro con brio; andante; allegro con brio (9:36)




String Quartet No. 5 in D Minor, Op. 66 (1977) (15:50)


Moderato con rubato, quasi un recititavo e quasi senza misura; allegro




Duet for Violas, Op. 94 (1991) (8:09)


Adagio; allegro




Total Time = 66:32




Ad Hoc String Quartet


Paul Vanderwerf, violin I · David Belden, violin II


Diedre Buckley, viola · James Fellenbaum, cello


Mark Ottesen, viola II (in the Duet)




A Composer-Supervised Digital Master Recording




Producer: John Gladney Proffitt