Rosner is at his most prickly in the Fourth Quartet with his accustomed fastidious expression and tragic inclination here magnified by highly intense drama. This piece ties in with his much later opera Chronicle of Nine. Stylistic alliances flit briefly across the auditory horizon: Shostakovich in his later quartets, Bartók and even RVW’s Tallis. The other two Quartets are good, however I confess I find the Rosner Quartet alone the reason to own this collection if one is interested in fantastic late 20th century Quartets.
Of his Fourth Quartet Rosner has written:
"Several simple observations may guide the listener in this work: 1) The language is largely chromatic but based on consonant harmonies. However, these harmonies are intensified either by major/minor effects or by moving or overlapping voices, such that purely resolved sounds occupy less than a majority of the total time. (Wagner applies this technique to more tonal vocabularies) The overlapping voice activity is probably foremost in the second movement, which draws most of its power from it. 2) Each of the movements uses, or perhaps I should say abuses, an archaic structure - French Overture, Isorhythmic Motet and Passacaglia, respectively. While a purist may argue with my treatment of each, this is not the only time I have employed any of them though it is my only work in which all the movements are in very old forms. In examples among the recorded repertoire, passacaglias can be found in my Horn Sonata, and Musique de Clavecin and a French Overture in my Concerto Grosso No. 1. I find there is a certain tautness and a tragic import implicit in these designs. 3) After the initial measures of triple forte Grave, the speeds of the movements are, simply: fast, moderate, slow. One would hardly expect this to be unique, but I find myself hard pressed to think of other examples, though schemes with emphasis on slow, unquiet denouements can be found in Berg's Lyric Suite, Bartok's 2nd and 6th Quartets, or any of several late Quartets of Shostakovich"
The Trimble work has a much higher incidence of dissonance than the Rosner. A pupil of Copland, Honegger and Milhaud, he seems to have gone down the road of Copland’s Piano Fantasy. An intriguing piece but decidedly thorny. Irwin Swack was a pupil of Vittorio Giannini (always a promising connection) and he seems to have been drawn to the music of Shostakovich and Bartók. These voices and the deftly astringent lyricism of the Berg Violin Concerto have each infused the horizontal and vertical grid of this music. He is most assuredly of a romantic inclination.
Each of the three works are performed by a different quartet String Quartet.
*Annoyingly the three quartets are recorded in single movements (three tracks on the disc) which doesn't effect the listening pleasure really but I never understand such a choice when a disc is being mastered or edited. Thus I will list the movements below:
Arnold Rosner - String Quartet No.1 (1972)
2. Isorhythmic Motet
Lester Trimble - String Quartet No. 1 (1950)
Irwin Swack - String Quartet No. 4 (in one movement) (1986-1990)