Divertimento for String Quartet (1992; revised version 1996)
Constance Cooper (BMI) duration: 14:05
Jacqueline Carrasco and Sara Parkins, violins; Harold Levin, viola; John Whitfield, violoncello; recording engineer: James Moses
Consistent with its divertimento character, the intensities of Constance Cooper's String Quartet are few and brief, preferring jocular and muscular musical thoughts interrupted by another bit of music, the deep scrape of a heavy bow effect, or silence. The intense, high-flying quarter-tone second-violin melody in the second movement turns out to have a calming effect. The lower instruments become engrossed with the melody and, provoked by its teasing, intermittent little trill, slow down and fall briefly silent. They seem to desire more of their former interplay, but find themselves more drawn to sweet solo melodies, which, over tiny noises, bring the work to its close.
The violist's C-string, tuned down to A for the first movement, is audibly retuned to C during the vamp-til-ready opening bars of the second movement. At the end of the piece, the violist is heard retuning back down to A for the concluding notes of the quartet.
The music of Constance Cooper, which is "astonishingly evocative" (Newark Star-Ledger) and "poetic, with quarter-tones fully integrated into the harmony" (EAR magazine), which "more than deserved the ovation it got" (Intermission), is "carefully crafted...with a sweet longing that shines through like a summer day, and gives...hope that a new generation of composers can find atonality not only compelling but also truly beautiful." (Trenton Times) The premiere of her opera Easter Eve was "...a strange and affecting evening of music...great dramatic effect [and] emotional authority...Cooper's music...painted every bit as gaudy and crowded a scene as could be imagined." (The Star-Ledger) She is currently at work on an evening of string pieces commissioned by the American Composers Forum.
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