Ives Quartet

Quincy Porter: String Quartets Nos. 1-4

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Quincy Porter: String Quartets Nos. 1-4 Review

by Blair Sanderson

The year 2007 marks the 110th anniversary of Quincy Porter's birth, and two important releases of his string quartets make it a banner year for reviving this composer's unfairly neglected music. First issued was a complete cycle of the nine string quartets and other short pieces on Albany, played by the Potomac String Quartet, an ambitious and highly talented ensemble noted for recording the complete string quartets of David Diamond. Following on the heels of that release, this CD appeared, presenting the first four string quartets in vivid performances by the Ives Quartet, a gifted group based in San Francisco that tours widely and appears here for the first time on Naxos. Porter's earliest string quartets involve some obvious associations from their time, influenced as they were by the quartets of Bartók, Debussy, and Ravel, but even in this stage of development, the strongly lyrical American voice that runs through Porter's later quartets is plainly evident, and his unique use of tonality -- blending modal harmonies with chromatic dissonances -- is already a distinguishing characteristic. The performances by the Ives Quartet are passionate and richly shaded with expressions, and the repartee feels responsive and natural, delivered with the spontaneity that comes with familiarity with the music. Naxos provides its customary high-quality sound, so the strings have great warmth, luster, and presence.

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