Author Topic: Wallingford Riegger  (Read 6496 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Leo K.

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1461
  • Author of 'False Barnyard'
    • Conceptual Music
  • Currently Listening to:
    Bruckner, Bach, Handel, Beethoven
Re: Wallingford Riegger
« Reply #20 on: April 03, 2014, 04:27:13 PM »
Notes on the Second String Quartet (found on JSTOR):

One of the most interesting phenomena of recent years has been the appearance at a late stage in Wallingford Riegger's career of several works of considerable vitality and inventiveness. The most important of these are perhaps Symphony No. 3 and the two String Quartets. 

I am not sure of the significance of Riegger's rather whole-hearted espousal of the twelve-tone technic in recent years, but it seems to have had the effect of coordinating and integrating various aspects of his earlier style. The Second Quartet does not seem to follow the strict canons of the Viennese school. It is atonal without being dodecaphonic. The opening idea, for instance, contains ten chromatic scale tones and indulges (heaven forbid!) in several note repetitions.  Among the aspects which relate this quartet to "Schoenberg and his school" are: the general character of the melodic  line, a certain arbitrariness about vertical  sonorities at times, and the almost studied  emphasis on such key intervals as the  augmented fourth and major seventh.  There are important differences which characterize this work and set it off from the main body of twelve-tone compositions. The work is surprisingly non-linear, especially in its first and last movements. The work as a whole has little of the dogged linearity of such a work  as the Schoenberg Fourth Quartet.

In its building up from small asymmetrical melodic and rhythmic cells it has more in common with the early manner of Stravinsky which has by now become such common property. There is also more development of rhythmic and melodic ideas than would be found in the orthodox works of this school which are more given to transformation and elision. The formal designs of the movements are extremely simple. The first movement, for example, has for its first half, after the initial unison presentation of  the theme, an asymmetrical version of this theme which is reiterated and is then treated with some elaboration. A broad and cantabile version follows with simple chordal texture, concluding with a third  scherzando-like treatment.

The second part of the movement repeats these versions of the theme fairly literally a minor third higher and the movement ends with a short codetta of six bars.  One of the most effective things about the quartet is the way the simplicity of form makes the harmonic and tonal complexity less of a barrier to communication. Two more factors seem significant in establishing perhaps the strongest sense of unity in an atonal work in some time. There is a linkage between movements, the first ending on a melodic cadence and the remaining ones on a complex harmonic structure. Each movement begins with the same melodic or  harmonic pattern with which the preceding movement ended. Other uses of the cyclic principle appear throughout.  This Second Quartet is a strong addition to the growing literature of significant chamber music in this country. Its technical difficulties, though not formidable, are well worth mastering. Unlike many productions of composers with the twelve-tone point of view, this is music for the ear as well as for the eye.   

ROBERT PALMER