String Quartet No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 1

Hello all, first post here I think. I am pretty much a summer-only (northern hemisphere summer, that is) composer as I teach full-time during the academic year, a grueling schedule. I just thought I would get my completed works up on the new board here: all two of them! (three counting the strings-only version of my Op. 2, a symphony whose ending has given me no end of headaches over the past 4 years. But that will be for another post.

I began this Quartet as a student in July 1975 at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor under William Albright. As the end of the summer approached, I couldn't figure out how to end it, so I gave it a throwaway ending and shelved it. After graduating in 1977 I returned to my original major, physics, and stopped composing altogether after a year or two. I knew nothing of notation software until late 2019 when I discovered MuseScore and used it to resurrect my old score and try to fix some errors and work out the ending. I quickly realised that it didn't need an ending, at least not quite yet. Instead I added an intense development section, an ultimately tender recapitulation, and a searching coda, mainly for solo viola. I made a couple of changes after abandoning MuseScore in favor of Sibelius with NotePerformer, but I consider it finished at this point.

All that to say that if you heard this piece in the last couple of years on the old board, there is no need to re-listen, I don't believe I made any changes since then. The score and rendering are from mid-July of last year. They're on Google Drive, which in my experience is an awfully unreliable playback device. I recommend downloading the MP3 and playing it back on the player of your choice. Playing time is about 16 minutes.

Audio file


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        • Indeed, so many "semantic" differences from Sibelius / NP, which reinforces the fact that converting my scores to a different system would involve a huge amount of work. Adding marcato markings in Sibelius / NP would result in TOO harsh an attack. I can only conclude that NP, for whatever reason (maybe because it reads ahead in the score?) really understands the musical language of a piece from the context. To me, that's a *huge* plus for NP that greatly outweighs defects in timbre.

          In any case, thanks for making the tempo corrections.


      • incidentally how NotePerfomer solo strings can sound "musical" when they completely lack the expressiveness of real instruments is beyond me. I thought musicality is inseparably bound up with tonal expressiveness. But maybe that's my romantic bias showing through. Despite the merits of the music itself, I found your NP rendering pretty hard to listen to.


        • I mean things like articulation, shaping of phrases, etc. I don't have any issue with the tonal *expressiveness* of NP's synthesized strings, only with how well the synthesis mimics the timbre of the actual instruments. The musical expression, it seems to me, is there, if the tone quality is a little off and noticeably synthetic.


          • I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. I don't find there is any shaping at all with such static instruments as NP provides here. If you find that plenty of people are happy to listen to NP's solo strings then I could be in the minority here! I happen to think that Chris Hein might work for this quartet but I know you don't like its sound.

  • I corrected some notational errors in the posted score in the OP and replaced it (specifically, the "buzz roll" tremolos). Oddly, Sibelius / NP renders those as if they were ordinary tremolos, but obviously,, they make no sense for strings.

    • buzz roll with a Z, as in timpani? I don't remember seeing any of those - anyway Dorico won't use the tremolo patch if you do something like that.


      • incidentally certain combinations like bar 25 sf + tremolo have no equivalent I'm aware of in VSL solo strings so what happens is the tremolo ends up being emulated here. NotePerformer is rather clever at programming combinations which it might not support the samples for (and one complaint is it supports too few actual artics) but as VSL solo strings are not supported by NP, decisions have to be made. However, as you may know, VSL is working on a new native Synchron solo strings library which should be finished soon and probably will be supported by NotePerformer Performance Engine. It could turn out to be a pretty exciting combination.


        • That's definitely something I would be interested in! I'm a little pessimistic, though, about how easy it would be to make all the adjustments in the score that would be needed to get the artics and expression right, when working with actual samples. After hearing your sample-based renderings of my Beethoven theme + variation last year, I went back and reworked extensively the phrasing and dynamics in that piece. Being fragmentary, it didn't take all that long, and actually sounds a little better even in NP. This quartet, of course, would take MUCH longer to rework everything, and as you say, some combinations that I rely on for certain effects may not be supported at all.

          • I've done countless reworkings of countless works. On average it takes a couple of days to change something to a new library -- and if it's supported by NPPE, it can be less because of the intelligence NotePerformer brings to bear. But I may not be as demanding as you are. My guess would be that that virtually everything in the quartet score would be more or less supported as there are no particularly specialised techniques I spotted (perhaps more or less being the operative phrase) by the new VSL Solo Strings but of course they're not out yet so who knows!


      • Yes. As I said, it was an error on my part - I read the symbol as a squiggle instead of a Z and thought it was just an especially rapid tremolo. They're not in your score, so my guess is they were either not read or not exported at all. There are long stretches in your score that are supposed to be played tremolo that are shown as ordinary notes. VSL renders some of them senza vib, so there might have been an unexported or unread "ord" directive somewhere.


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