Alvin Singleton: Four String Quartets
Liner Notes   Cat. No. 80832     Release Date: 2022-05-20

Momenta Quartet: Emilie-Anne Gendron, Alex Shiozaki, violins; Stephanie Griffin, viola; Michael Haas, cello

Alvin Singleton’s (b. 1940) approach to music-making has all along been involved in an interplay with listeners and their psychology. While this does not mean he has been centered on simply pleasing his audiences, his work seems to constantly draw his audience into confronting challenges of listening, and they tend to end up pleased. Therefore, with so many of his pieces, they might be extremely complex and masterfully crafted, but seldom do you feel he presents the listener with something they cannot understand on at least a basic level. When asked recently about why ordinary listeners seem to “get” his music, he answered: “Perhaps because it’s structurally filled with surprises, a lot of silences, and spaces in my compositions.…”

Contrasts both big and small, long and short, vigorous and subdued, loud and quiet, are important to his music. Maybe a passage is presented that happens loudly over and over again followed by sudden silence. Suddenly the listener notices how loud that silence seems. In a way, it is the relationship with the listener that he regards as making serious music a serious matter. And his pieces are more than what is normally thought of as just pieces of music. One finds them that, yes, but as much as anything, they are experiences—almost “theatrical” experiences you can hear.

Singleton’s string quartets span the arc of his career—the first (untitled) written in 1967, the fourth in 2019 — and trace his stylistic evolution as a composer. Suggestively and somewhat enigmatically titled — No. 2 (1988) is Secret Desire to Be Black; No. 3 (1994) is Somehow We Can; No. 4 is Hallelujah Anyhow — they serve as an excellent introduction to his work and constitute a substantial contribution to the string quartet repertoire by one of this country’s most distinguished African-American composers. Three of the four quartets are world premiere recordings.

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"An easy recommendation for any curious listener eager to discover what is produced today by living composers and indeed a well-chosen introduction
to the work of a highly individual and gifted composer."  
—EarRelevant

Momenta Quartet

Alvin Singleton: Four String Quartets

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Track Listing

String Quartet No. 1 Momenta Quartet
Alvin Singleton
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Secret Desire to Be Black (String Quartet No. 2)
Alvin Singleton
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Somehow We Can (String Quartet No. 3)
Alvin Singleton
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Hallelujah Anyhow (String Quartet No. 4)
Alvin Singleton
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