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This album consists of world premiere recordings of Robert Paterson’s three string quartets: String Quartet No. 1, String Quartet No. 2, and String Quartet No. 3. These three quartets span a period of over twenty years, with the first quartet having been composed in 2000, and the second and third composed in 2019, and 2020, respectively. This begs the question: what took so long for Paterson to compose another string quartet? Why wait almost twenty years, and why did he compose his second and third quartets so close together?
In Paterson’s words, “I think I waited so long because I was looking for just the right quartets to commission and premiere these works. I really like working as closely as possible with chamber ensembles (or any ensembles, for that matter) when I compose new works, so it’s important for me to really get to know the ensembles I am working with. I like to hang out with the group members and really get to know who they are and what they are all about, because that makes the pieces more personal, and ultimately, much more interesting. I like creating stories behind the pieces I compose.”
Paterson originally composed his String Quartet No. 2 for the Euclid Quartet, which is coincidentally, also based in Indiana. Right on the heels of that quartet, The Indianapolis Quartet commissioned Paterson to compose his String Quartet No. 3.
“[Review of world premiere at Carnegie Hall]: This music’s complex meters and aggressive stance—not to mention the entire quartet’s five-movement form—put one in mind of Bartók… a tour de force of tight ensemble and interplay… it’s clear that Paterson has added a lively and imaginative new piece to the string quartet repertoire.”— David Wright, New York Classical Review
“I wouldn’t normally compose two pieces for the exact same ensemble back-to-back,” Paterson said, “but in this case, these quartets are so amazing that I just couldn’t turn down the opportunity to work with The Indianapolis Quartet, even if they wanted their piece right after I had completed my second quartet.”
All three highly colorful works have various similarities: they all use copious extended techniques, but not for the sake of the techniques themselves, but as an integral part of the music itself. He also uses quotes in all three movements: the notorious “Love Boat” theme in Quartet No 1, quotes from music by Edvard Grieg in String Quartet No. 2, and snippets of various anthems in the last movement of String Quartet No. 3. All three quartets are in multiple movements, and they are all imbued with Paterson’s characteristic whit, technical prowess, and vibrant personality.
Described by the press as “a modern-day master” (AXS.com) and the “highlight of the program” (The New York Times), Robert Paterson has won numerous awards for his music in virtually every classical genre. The Classical Recording Foundation at Carnegie’s Weill Hall named Paterson Composer of The Year in 2011, and his music has been on the Grammy ballot for the past six seasons. His works have appeared on National Public Radio’s Best of the Year lists for classical music and regularly appear on radio playlists across the United States. Paterson’s music has been performed by over one hundred outstanding ensembles, including Nashville Opera (for the world premiere of Three Way with a libretto by David Cote), Opera Orlando, Minnesota Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Delaware Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, and the Buffalo Philharmonic. Recent commissions include Ghost Theater for the Albany Symphony and the first ever commission for the New York Choral Consortium’s annual “Big Sing” event. Paterson’s awards include the A.I. duPont Composer’s Award from the Delaware Symphony, a three-year Music Alive grant from the League of American Orchestras and New Music USA, and an American Composers Forum commission through the Jerome Composers Commissioning Program. He resides in New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY with his wife, Victoria, and son, Dylan, and together he and his wife co-direct Mostly Modern Projects, a non-profit that focuses on performing and recording music by living composers. For more information, visit robertpaterson.com.
The Indianapolis Quartet, founded in 2016, and consisting of Zachary DePue, Violin; Joana Genova, Violin; Michael Isaac Strauss, Viola, and Austin Huntington, Cello, currently serves as quartet-in-residence at the University of Indianapolis. Praised for “its energetic, often kinetic, enthusiasm, and each player’s individual virtuosity and flexibility” (New York Concert Review), the members’ palpable rapport and interpretive skills bring about performances of a unique emotional style that have earned the group critical acclaim and audience adoration.
The Indianapolis Quartet garnered accolades for its Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall debut in March 2020, premiering Robert Paterson’s String Quartet No. 3 “in a tour de force of tight ensemble and interplay” (New York Classical Review), along with works by Debussy, Schumann, and Frank Felice.
The ensemble has performed at Lutkin Hall at Northwestern University in Chicago, Indiana Landmarks Center, Tippecanoe Chamber Music Society in Lafayette, Indiana, Illinois Wesleyan University, St. Francis@4 series in Cincinnati, and the Duckwall Artist Series at Butler University, among other engagements. The have also served as ensemble-in-residence at the Taconic Music Festival in Manchester, Vermont, Sonoran Chamber Music Festival at Arizona State University and at Indiana State University’s 53rd annual Contemporary Music Festival.
They have also given numerous live performances on Vermont Public Radio, WBAA Classical 101.3 FM in West Lafayette, Indiana, and on WISH-TV in Indianapolis.
Guest artist collaborations on their home series at the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center in Indianapolis and on tour have included acclaimed performances with renowned concert artists Mark Kosower, Todd Palmer, Atar Arad, Eric Kim, Drew Petersen, Soyeon Kate Lee, Carrie Dennis, Nick Canellakis, and Orli Shaham. “The quartet and Shaham fashioned a reading of great tenderness and variety, serious as all get-out when it needed to be, exuberantly driven when appropriate, and fully responsive to that summit of Brahmsiness, the Allegro non troppo.” (Jay Harvey Upstage).
In addition to their extensive repertoire of classical, romantic and 20th-century works, the Indianapolis Quartet has commissioned and performed new works by Robert Paterson, Frank Felice, Matthew Bridgham, and John Berners. The ensemble can be heard on composer Frank Felice’s monograph recording Reflections and Whimsies: Chamber Music for Strings and Voice.
TOTAL TIME: ca. 74’
“If, like me, you like contemporary music that is not afraid to please while being intellectually rigorous and stimulating, you will fall under the spell of the quartets of Robert Paterson… Propulsive rhythms, exciting play of colours and textures, playing with dissonance effects like so many spices to spice up a dish, but resolutely relying on a tonal centre to keep the listener hooked, Paterson’s sound universe brings together the best in contemporary music of the American school. Better still, he is not afraid to insert quotations from popular music, thus creating surprises with a very sympathetic humorous spring.”— Frédéric Cardin, Panm360
“It’s difficult to pinpoint just what it is about Robert Paterson’s music that makes it interesting, modern and audience-friendly all at the same time. The first thing that leaps out at you, aside from his tongue-in-cheek handling of themes and fast-paced energy, is his rhythmic vitality, and I can tell you from very long experience in reviewing modern music that, except for those few composers who combined jazz elements with their music,… emphasizing rhythms that average audiences can follow is a rare commodity… There are no two ways about it: Robert Paterson’s music is both modern in every respect you can think of—harmonically, rhythmically and thematically—but audience-friendly at the same time. It’s a little nutty, but the world needs more humor in classical music. We have far too much of the “oh-God-I’m-so-depressed-and-serious” type.”— Lynn René Bayley, Art Music Lounge