JAMES WILLEY (b.1939): String Quartets Nos. 3, 7 & 8.
Catalogue Number: 04M077
Reference: TROY 1245
Description: These refined and solidly constructed quartets mark the evolution of a consistent voice, one based in tonality but admitting aspects of more modern compositional devices. The composer proclaims an interest in 18th-century New England hymns, which make an appearance in all three quartets, mostly not as direct quotations but as a source of melodic and harmonic shaping. The seventh quartet is pervaded by a melody compiled from scales with different harmonic implications, a là Busoni, in three movements which explore a range of material, hymn-like, lyrically lamenting (with a very modal, almost Vaughan Williams harmonic flavor) and a metrically lively dancing finale. The two movements of the Eighth are based on hymn material developed through a variety of imitative contrapuntal devices in variation form. In the first movement, as in the chorale material of the third and the songlike middle movement of the seventh, the music takes on an air of restrained nobility, with agitated undercurrents raising the emotional tension, echoed in the opening of the second movement, rhythmically insistent with a jazzy swagger, then supplanted by a return to pastoral songfulness. Eszterhazy Quartet.