The work is cast in a classical, four-movement form, but in abbreviated proportions, hence the title. Pitches heard in the introductory phrases (with anticipation) serve as the subject of the compositional discourse to follow, both locally (energetically) and throughout the remainder of the piece, but the emotional focal point is found in the second movement (gently), a lullaby and dirge lamenting the tragic death of conductor/violist David O'Dell, in whose memory Quartette was written. Here the ensemble is muted throughout, forming a backdrop of restrained sorrow from which a veiled viola solo emerges at the conclusion. Following immediately is a scherzo of sorts (with a sense of playfulness) whose halting hoquet-ishness [sic] is heightened by the exclusive use of pizzicato. Even the final cadence seems somewhat askew. The composition closes with a vigorous study in perpetual motion (relentlessly). The thematic relationship to the opening movement is, perhaps, most obvious, but reference is also made to the slow, sustained chords of the second movement after an extended harmonic metamorphosis.
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