The Janus Quartet

Instrumentation:  String Quartet

Duration:  12:00

James Kraft for the Arcata Quartet

Arcata Quartet
The Manhattan School of Music
New York, NY

Program Note

The Janus Quartet is named for the Roman god of gates and doorways, depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions. I was inspired by this image for several reasons: the piece was to be premiered in January, the festival month of this god; the piece was commissioned in honor of James Kraft’s sixtieth birthday, a time to look back as well as forward; and it fit one of my core compositional interests, the breaking of the taboo against premodern gestures. Rather than avoid the harmonic emblems and textures of tonality I play with, flaunt, break them. The piece begins with a long A section built on an Ab-major chord that is transformed from the opening Beethovenian registration by means of distinctively modern techniques. The B section, which opens out harmonically and melodically, stretches towards the present. The development section whirls into a mad dance, a wild scherzo that seizes control until, gradually lightening, it leads to a transformed version of the opening, now focused on an A-major chord. Semblances of the B section and development return as well, the latter interrupted with a sidestep to C-major that ends the action with a coda that suggests a new beginning. The underlying Ab-A-C chord motion features a skewed version of the flat-II (Neapolitan) and flat-VI relationships that were favorites of romantic composers. However, these chords have been pulled from their traditional positions to serve as pillars of a new sonic architecture.–JS

The Janus Quartet
Product Options
#OptionPriceDownloadFile Size
Shipping Rate: A
Order The Janus Quartet