Recording made May 8, 2018 at Peabody Conservatory by The Mänk Quartet:
Nicholas Bentz and Maitreyi Muralidharan, violins
Amy Tan, viola
Kahler Suzuki, cello
Growing up on Boar’s Hill near Oxford, on Sundays I would visit my neighbor who was an antiquarian book dealer. Albi Rosenthal was not just any book slinger, though. He was one of the world experts on historical musical manuscripts scores from mediaeval times to the current day. Tea was surrounded by his Mendelssohn watercolors, pages from illuminated codices, Paganini and Monteverdi letters, and whatever had arrived that week for his valuation skills for auction houses, libraries, and collectors. After he began working as Paul Sacher’s right hand man to collect 20th century music archives, the original scores out on the desk included Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Cardew’s Treatise, and stacks of Nancarrow, Birtwistle, Ligeti, Boulez, Carter, and Brant. Visitors would drop by with familiar last names like Cortot and Krebs, and when time allowed between world travel and leading the Oxford orchestra, he enjoyed playing string quartets in his music room.
I was in high school, aiming for Cambridge, and enjoying summer schools at Dartington with Peter Maxwell Davies. I was singing in choirs, taking tabla lessons, and listening to Messiaen, late Stravinsky, Ives, and David Munrow’s “Music of the Gothic Era.” I was a hack trombonist, not a string player.
All the above show up in some guise in the string quartet I wrote for Albi in 1981 when I was 18. He never had a chance to play it and it lay forgotten until Maxwell Davies’s recent death prompted its memory.
All the pitch material derives from a quasi-tonal eight-tone row. Instead of Italian tempo or expression markings, I serialized the form around the eight Rasa or moods found in Indian classical music. This mood-catalog, united by common harmonies (and by extension integrating multiple aspects of a single personality), is a nod to one of the other fellows on Albi’s shelf (and himself a neglected composer), Nietszche.
The eight Rasa (in order of appearance) are:
Bravery, effort, determination
Fright, alarm, anger, fury