EDWARD COWIE (b.1943): String Quartets No. 1 “Dungeness Nocturnes”, No. 2 “Crystal Dances” and No. 6 “The Four Winds”, GAD for Solo Violin.
Catalogue Number: 05V056
Reference: msv 28603
Description: Following the disc of his quartets that we offered in 2016 (03R067), here are two early ones and a relatively recent one. More than most composers of whom this may legitimately be said, Cowie's music doesn’t fit into any established school or category, because of his idiosyncratic approach that regards composition as a phenomenon of Nature as much as an intellectual discipline. This is summed up in three of the basic tenets of his æsthetic, to wit: "Music is a biological phenomenon and thus a form of ‘behavior’; Music is just one part of a vast interconnecting formal and cosmic dynamic; I am more inspired by natural history than musical history." And the composer is also an accomplished visual artist, who habitually prefaces the act of composition with the production of beautiful graphic works made with a jeweler's sense of balance, proportion and color. This approach leads to an unique idiom that can’t usefully be described as tonal, atonal, sonorist, or anything else; it may be any of these things, or directly imitative of natural sounds (the zephyrs and currents in the wind-pictures of the 6th are unmistakable) in close succession, or simultaneously. Progress is determined organically, and the string writing is idiomatic and assured (the violin was Cowie's first instrument). A general, undogmatic and non-linear tendency toward a greater incidence of ‘conventional' quartet writing seems to be evident in the more recent works, the 5th, from the previous disc, and the 6th here having more 'melody' and tonal harmony in evidence than the early pieces. The composer acknowledges this in his statement that "the 1st quartet ... emancipates dissonance with consonance in an entirely egalitarian way. This moves through music (the 2nd quartet), that delves deeply into ultra-structures in states of growth and change- to an even more mercurial yet powerful fusion (the 6th quartet), between sensing something (the four winds), and reflecting on the physical as well as metaphysical properties of nature in action." GAD - Generalized Anxiety Disorder - is a psychological study in music; tense, edgy, brittle, but with sudden revelatory moments of incandescent beauty; this is Cowie cathartically creating art out of a condition that he has lived with most of his life. Kreutzer Quartet.