JOHN BURGE (b.1961): Piano Quartet, String Theory for Viola and Piano, Pas de Deux for Violin and Cello.
Catalogue Number: 09R076
Reference: CMCCD 21715
Description: These recent works for strings are sophisticated but attractive and approachable, in a thoroughly tonal idiom. Pas de deux follows the conventions of the dance form, presenting first a graceful theme for one instrument with the other in an accompanying rôle, then the other way around. The material is then developed at some length by the two, with frequent double-stopping to enrich the harmonic texture. String Theory is both a compendium of string playing techniques and an exploration of a wide tonal and emotional landscape, hence the pun on the theory in physics that seeks to explain the basis of all matter. The piece consists of a series of short, linked sections in which the violin plays in a variety of styles - none of them going as far as 'extended' but certainly encompassing most of the techniques found in the standard and much of the contemporary violin repertoire, accompanied by a richly harmonised and textured piano part (with a little surprise at the very end). Eloquent Romantic melody, exhilarating toccatas and thunderous chordal climaxes make up a multifaceted work of constant variety. The big three-movement Piano Quartet begins with a somewhat minimalistic fast section, but after the introduction of a declamatory theme the music acquires more of the character of a conventional allegro, without losing any of its headlong drive. The second movement frames a scurrying sotto voce scherzo framed by a slow, eerily dissonant introduction and a reflective epilogue, while the energetic finale reintroduces the vigorous rhythmic bass motif from the first movement, bringing the work full circle with a recapitulation of material from earlier in the work. Ensemble Made in Canada.