"A few years ago it occurred to Fine that amiability was becoming too steady a diet with him and that some relief was in order. To this end he set himself the task of writing a twelve-tone string quartet (1952) which turned out to be an impressive work, perhaps his best to date." So Arthur Berger wrote in his article "Stravinsky and the Younger American Composers" (The Score, no. 12, June 1955). Fine's own note on the string quartet, written for the 1954 recording by the Juilliard Quartet (Columbia ML 4843), is more "amiable":
My String Quartet, commissioned by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, was completed in the spring of 1952. It was first performed in December 1952 by the Juilliard String Quartet at Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass.; and subsequently received its first public performance by the same group at a League of Composers concert at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, February 1953.
The work is approximately nineteen minutes in duration and consists of two movements (Allegro risoluto and Lento) each of which is essentially tripartite in form. The first movement's fast exposition and recapitulation are separated by a quieter contrasting middle section. In the second movement, the outer sections are slow and the middle section more agitated.
This is the first work in which I have employed the twelve-tone technique with some consistency. While all of the melodic material, the harmonies, and the figuration have been generated by the "row," the use of the "row" technique is fairly free; and the work as a whole is frankly tonal, C being the prevailing tonality.
The performance of the String Quartet offered here is a recording made during a set of live performances by the Juilliard String Quartet given at the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress on October 11 and 12, 1984, in a concert presented by the Gertrude Clarke Whittall Foundation in the Library of Congress.
Listen to the Quartet
First movement: Allegro risoluto
Second movement: Lento
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