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Second String Quartet


I wrote my Second String Quartet during the first half of 1979 for the Columbia String Quartet, who gave the first performance at the Grand Teton Festival (Jackson, Wyoming) the following August. The work is in four connected movements but each of these has its own slow and fast music, and its own area of activity and repose; the whole work, therefore, is really a single large, movement.

Much interesting music has been composed as a response to ideas of dichotomy and opposition: musics of different character unfold simultaneously, and the continuity that results from such approaches is often very striking. But in this work, I have been more interested in unity and cooperation than in multiplicity and independence. The performance of chamber music requires the fusing of independent wills in the realization of a single entity. My quartet is ‘about’ such fusion. The members of the ensemble speak with a single tongue.


"Mr. Wuorinen is a composer of acuity, vision and striking resourcefulness. What commands attention, rat-her than particular materials or momentary effects, is the continuing evolutionary thrust. In the second movement, for instance, Mr.- Wuorinen uses vacant tremolos, trills and harmonics somewhat in the style of Bartok's, night music.' But rather than fully congealing, this potentially atmospheric design generates contrasting episodes of a more extroverted, aggressive nature. The transformations are richly detailed and persuasively organic ... the polyphonic strength of the writing is one of its most absorbing features, especially in a performance as lucid and well-considered as the one provided by the Columbia String Quartet on this occasion." Joseph Horowitz, New York Times