progress with SQ#6

Ben and quartet at church for coachings in summer
Ben and Kepler Quartet at church for coachings in summer

Over the past 6 months we have continued rehearsing and recording SQ#6. On Dec. 19, we recorded the “backwards” versions of the violin II and viola solo sections. In January, we rehearsed the cello solo section intensively, but a family emergency forced us to move the recording date to March. After that, all that will remain of #6 is the retrograde first violin solo.

The “forward” and “backwards” violin II solos were virtually identical in character—both rather placid and serene, which seems appropriate as these solos bookend the raucous middle chordal section. Providing more of a front-to-back contrast, the “forward” viola solo had been bizarrely athletic and dance-y, while “backwards” was like rhythmic accented speech. Whereas cello “forward” had given the impression of a fairly conventional Romantic lyricism, “backwards” cello has a harder edge to its delivery. The tempos marked in the score are increasing with each of these solo sections, from the midpoint of the piece onward. Retrograde first violin promises to be a more caffeinated version.

During the summer months, we also spent a significant amount of time delving into quartet #7 with Ben. This is the veritable ‘Mount Everest’ in his cycle when it comes to the pitch set. There are over 1,200 discrete pitches in this monumental work (Sharan is calling the last movement ‘Syntonic Verses…’).

Tim Johnson, our audio programmer, joined us for a few of these #7 sessions. As with #6, we are finding many copyist’s errors. Fully corrected #6 and #7 scores that we could eventually furnish through the publisher’s catalog may be another welcome byproduct of this project. We would like to do the same for Ben’s other quartets.