• Jay Greenberg
  • Quintet for Strings, Op. 1 (2004)

  • G. Schirmer/Lost Penny Publications (World)
  • 2vn, va, 2vc
  • 18 min

Programme Note

Composer note:

Quintet for Strings is the subject of a large number of metaphors. I have variously attempted to describe it in a number of symbolic ways — resorting to history, psychology, philosophy, and so on — and all of those attempts have failed miserably. To confine myself to music, therefore: It is written for string quartet plus 'cello, an ensemble for which the best-known work is Franz Schubert's posthumous C Major Quintet; and, more relevantly to my state of mind at the time, it placed the viola with its almost narrative role throughout neatly in the middle of the page, between the two violins and the two 'cellos.

The Quintet is in three movements. Its opening Adagio, which I considered to be dissonant and "tightly woven" in the CD liner notes, is based upon two themes, one modal and one tonal; the dissonance is based on the opening augmented-fourth chord, which proceeds to dominate the movement to its last few bars. The Scherzo that follows features off-beat accents and much use of staccato, pizzicato, and grace note effects. The Prestissimo finale combines fugato and rondo to bring the work to a powerful conclusion in the home key of D.

The inspiration for the Quintet is still unknown. It appears I walked into the dining room, announced to my parents that I was writing a quintet, and left for my desk. The Quintet does feature its viola, which links it to the previous year's Viola Concerto and, going further, to violist and family friend Mark Furth, who hosted concerts at his house at which I was in frequent attendance. I cannot say, however, whether I actually had those concerts in mind at the time I wrote it, or whether that was a thought that merely occurred to me afterwards.

— Jay Greenberg

I. Adagio misterioso e dolore (ca. 8')
II. Scherzo (ca. 5')
III. Prestissimo (ca. 5')