Philip Glass

String Quartet No. 2 ("Company")

    Description by Jeremy Grimshaw

    Composed in 1983, Philip Glass' String Quartet No. 2 followed nearly two decades during which Glass had not written for the medium. Glass withdrew his initial attempt at a quartet in 1963 (even though it had been published). His String Quartet No. 1, a constructivist piece with repetitive layers suggestive of his later minimalist style, was completed in 1966. By the time of his second quartet, his characteristic harmonic progressions and signature rhythmic gestures had become well established. Used within the intimate, introspective context of the quartet medium, however, his modal inflections and metric shifts assumed a more dramatic, plaintive quality than generally found in, say, the more aggressive and austere music composed for the Philip Glass Ensemble. The work was not initially conceived as chamber music, however, but for the theater instead. As early as the 1960s, while in Paris, Glass had collaborated with what would later become the Mabou Mines theater group (and married one of its members, JoAnne Akalaitis). After the ensemble established itself under that name in New York a decade later, Glass worked with the group once again and provided music for more than a dozen of its productions. For the group's production of Samuel Beckett's Company, Glass looked to extract the music from the action by writing a score that could stand entirely on its own as a concert work. In fact, upon perusing the score, Beckett was pleased at the space the music left for the drama. "Oh, very good," he remarked to Glass. "It will appear in the interstices, as it were." The work is cast in four brief and closely related movements. The first presents a series of variations on a simple harmonic scheme consisting of a more or less static tonal center ornamented by moving inner lines. This rather monochrome setting places emphasis on the instrumental balance and subtle shades of expression provided by shifting textures. Covering similar harmonic terrain, the second movement engages in faster and more aggressive figurations; the steady rhythmic undercurrent finds resistance from the lurching hemiolas in the upper lines. The third movement revisits the contours of the first, with only slight harmonic alteration and textural elaboration. Likewise, the fourth movement revisits the tension between triple and duple meter that characterized the second, but assumes a more somber tone that fades to a whisper by the work's close.


    1. Quartet note = 96
    2. Quartet note = 160
    3. Quartet note = 96
    4. Quartet note = 160

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2014 Solo Musica SM 217
    2014 Orange Mountain Music OMM 0092
    2013 Virgin Classics / Warner Classics 5099973529
    2012 Nonesuch
    2011 Orange Mountain Music 74
    2011 Nonesuch
    2010 Naxos 8559636
    2008 Naxos 8559354
    2008 Nonesuch 7559799469
    2008 Signum UK 117
    2008 Analekta 28727
    2006 Virgin 363308
    2005 Nonesuch
    1998 Elektra / Nonesuch 7559795042
    1995 Nonesuch 79356