Robert Carl

Composer(s): Robert Carl
Album Title: Robert Carl: Music for Strings 
Cat. No.: 80645
Genre: Classical
Release Date: 03/2006
Description: Adaskin String Trio: Emlyn Ngai, violin; Steve Larson, viola; Mark Fraser, cello; Katie Lansdale, violin; John McDonald, piano; Annie Trépanier, violin

Robert Carl (b. 1954) possesses one of the widest and most varied expressive ranges of any composer of his generation. This isn't the disc to prove that, however. In the string music here we focus in on what I think of as the central core of Carl's aesthetic: the devoutly ruminative music with expression markings like "achingly" and "fragile." In his string music, Carl aligns himself with Beethoven and Ives as a composer who asks musical questions, who frankly frames his own spiritual journey in sounds with all its doubts, hungers, epiphanies, and acquiescences.

At the end of Open (1998) or Carl's Second String Quartet (2000–01), we know the composer's response to the existential questions of life as definitively as we can know them at the end of Ives's Fourth Symphony, or Beethoven's Ninth. Carl can be playful, satirical, intellectual, or picturesque in his other works, but something about the soulful nature of strings makes him express his innermost yearnings through them. And these three works, written within a three-year period, are even more closely related than this implies. Their motivic material seems cut from the same cloth: the imperious dotted-rhythm motive at the beginning of Open, the thirds encircling each other in the "Angel-Skating" Sonata (Violin Sonata No. 2) (1999), the leaping lines at the beginning of the Second Quartet, are all based on pairs of interlocking intervals, whose contours Carl weaves into tapestries whose underlying unity is felt viscerally without being analytically contrived. 
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