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String Quartets Nos. 2,3,4,7 and 8

Gloria Coates , Kreutzer Quartet Audio CD

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1. String Quartet No. 7 'Angels' (2000)
2. Grave
3. On Wings Of Sound
4. In Falling Timbers Buried
5. Prayer
6. Molto Sostenuto Espressivo
7. Adagio Molto Con Espressione
8. Allegretto Scherzando
9. Marcato
10. Mirror Canon
11. Agitato

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars intense, dreamy intellectualism Aug. 21 2004
By G. HIGGINS - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Coates is fond of using Baroque analogies to cast her work in technical terms, and in interviews openly confesses her love for Vivaldi and Bach. While there's little doubt of her meticulous attention to formal structures, make no mistake--Coates would be burned as a witch had she produced works like these in the 18th century. Not to be flip, but the discerning eye will note in most portraits of Julian Bream a subtle protest: fingers forming the "devil's 9th" chord, the playing of which was punishable by death during the Inquisition and afterward. This somewhat dissonant chord is clearly visible on the cover of his arrangements of Bach's partitas.

Coates incorporates a vast vocabulary of dissonances into her rarified soundworld--one at odds with much of modernist orthodoxy (which the moderns have long since morphed into) for its sheer emotional heft and technical complexity. She sounds nothing like Vivaldi; for that matter, she sounds nothing like any composer. If one is pressed for comparisons, her music bears passing resemblance to Feldman, and then only in the vaguest terms. The simplistic view would be to call her quartets and symphonies scores for approaching flight paths--what airports sound like on the outside from fixed positions, a soupcon of colliding Doppler fades and crescendos. More directly, though, the listener finds a smoldering core of mournful, ambivalent glissandi that cascade over one in a torrent.

Like most 20th-century iconoclasts, she favors strings over horns, woodwinds and percussion, and the utilization of large banks of violins, violas and cellos in her orchestral work gives it unprecedented scale. This characteristic follows with her chamber music as well, and it must be noted that any ensemble playing Coates must do so with a sense of this multiplicity. This offering is clearly among the best.
2.0 out of 5 stars Stop the glissandi, I want to get off Sept. 29 2014
By Christopher Culver - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The composer Gloria Coates, born in 1938 in the United States but long resident in Germany, has made her name with orchestral and chamber works that proceed with glissandi and not individual pitches. It's a weird soundworld indeed. This Naxos disc gives us five of her string quartets as performed by the Kreutzer Quartet: Peter Sheppard Skærved and Gordon MacKay (violins), Bridget Carey (viola) and Neil Heyde (cello).

These quartets were written across three decades. The Second (1972), Third (1975) and Fourth (1976-1977) date from not long after she established her mature style. The Seventh, titled "Angels" (2000) and Eighth (2001-2002) represent Coates continuing that style into the new millennium, and the latter is a memorial to September 11. Coates' trademark glissandi proceed either as slow, gradual transitions, or fast-moving waves up and down. The latter passages remind me of the quip (sometimes attributed to Stravinsky) that the ondes martenot in Messiaen's "Turangalila-Symphonie" is the aural equivalent of a colon cleansing. In spite of this unusual technique, the material of Coates's works are often readily perceptible canonic structures.

Coates's music has a sound that might grab you powerfully when you first hear it, like the effect that György Ligeti's sound-mass music in the film "2001" often has on listeners. However, once you've heard one work by Coates, you've basically heard them all. There's no sense of stylistic development from any one quartet to another here, in spite of the thirty-year span. The String Quartet No. 7 "Angels" has unusual instrumentation, adding an organ to the two violins, viola and cello, but is not appreciably different than any of her other works. Compare her to any other composer interested more in thick sound than melody, and Coates's limitations become evident: she never tries to shake things up by juxtaposing serious moments with light ones (there is zero humour in her quartets), nor is there ever a drama of opposition and accord among the instruments here. She's a one-trick pony.

If you are interested in Coates's music in spite of my warning, it's worth noting that all of the music here was reissued in a box set with the other Naxos/Kreutzer recordings of her string quartets.

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