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City Traffic at Night

quartet no. 1 


for 2 violins, viola, and cello / 2014

String Quartet No. 1 is the product of the continuation of my exploration in a "twenty-first century sound" in a tonal framework. In this composition I sought to create a convincing link between traditions and innovations, which can be embodied in two aspects: the work's harmonic language roots in my pop-inspired and direct tonal style, yet differs from my previous works with more surprising and less functional progressions, more remote tertian extension notes, more daring dissonances, and more deliberate use of poly harmonic elements; it is constructed in free forms, with an emphasis on Baroque models and ethos, yet by no means Neo-Baroque in style. The opening movement unfolds in a dark and puzzling atmosphere, with only occasional moments of tonal clarity; following is the second movement with a dissonant and haunting prelude, with a glissando gesture as a motif, and concludes with unresolved tensions in a lively yet struggling fugue; the third movement, not only where my heart truly lies but also the emotional heart of the work, with the most tonal clarity in the work, longs for hope in sorrow, while taking the struggle to a more profound level; the second-movement prelude haunts back as a ghost of merely a few measures in the finale, before the music takes off in a quasi-Baroque dance with dazzling colours, unifying the entire work with quotations of motifs of all previous movements in solo passages, and eventually rushing towards a strong authentic cadence with determination.







00:00 I. Prelude: Maestoso con disperazione
02:08 II. Fugue: Più vivace
04:46 III. Andante sentimentale
08:34 IV. Maestoso – Prestissimo

Katherine Peter, violin I
Danielle Greene, violin II
Carolyn Farnand, viola
Alice Kim, cello


Recorded in Walter Hall, University of Toronto, March 17, 2015

Copyright © Zi-Xiao He 2014

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