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Scoring

string quartet

Abbreviations (PDF)


World Premiere
2/20/2020
Richardson Auditorum, Alexander Hall, Princeton, NJ
Jeffrey Myers, vln; Ryan Meehan, vln; Jeremy Berry, vla; Estelle Choi, vlc / Calidore String Quartet
Composer's Notes

Breathing Statues draws inspiration and musical quotes from Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartets No. 13 in B-flat major Op. 130, No. 16 in F major Op. 135, and the Grosse Fuge Op. 133. It also draws inspiration from On Music, a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke.

The concept for Breathing Statues came from a poignant moment in the Grosse Fuge where the music stops and, in between moments of silence, breathes as it shifts from a root position E-flat major chord to a first inversion C major chord.

This idea of the music breathing reminded me of another poignant moment in the B-flat Major Quartet (for which the Grosse Fuge was originally the final movement) when the lower strings provide a pulsing accompaniment to a violin melody that is marked beklemmt (oppressed, heavy of heart) and the voice almost stutters as if out of breath. I also found other quotes that have a similar feeling of breathing or sighing, such as a moment in the Adagio of the B-flat major quartet, and quotes that would strongly contrast, such as the descending rhythmic lines in the lower strings in the Grosse Fuge, and a violent outburst in the last movement of the F-Major Quartet - the last movement of the latter is titled "Der schwer gefaßte Entschluß" ("The Difficult Decision") and is the last major work that Beethoven completed.

Breathing Statues begins with a quote from the opening of the last movement of Beethoven’s F-major quartet, which is originally accompanied by text – Beethoven writes: Muss es sein? Es muss sein! (must it be? It must be!). His notation of these statements are also marked by significant pauses between them. This musical quote builds the foundation for Breathing Statues.

The concept of breath – of the music and musicians breathing – sometimes together and sometimes apart, reminded me of Rilke’s poem On Music, from which Breathing Statues derives its title.

On Music

Music: the breathing of statues. Perhaps:
the silence of paintings. Language where
language ends. Time
that stands head-up in the direction
        of hearts that wear out.

Feeling...for whom? Place where feeling is
transformed...into what? Into a countryside we can hear.
Music: you stranger. You feeling space, growing
away from us. The deepest thing in us, that
rising above us, forces its way out...
a holy goodbye:
when the innermost point in us stands
outside, as amazing space, as the other
side of the air:
pure,
immense,
not for us to live in now.

         - Rainer Maria Rilke


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