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Duration: 6 minutes

FROM THE FIFTH BOOK  (2011)
for String Quartet
Commissioned in celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Brentano String Quartet

From the Fifth Book was commissioned by the Brentano String Quartet for their Fragments Project, in celebration of their 20th Anniversary Season. The commissioned composers were asked to write a movement for quartet reflecting upon a fragmentary work by some of the most celebrated quartet composers including Mozart, Schubert and Schoenberg. I selected what appears to be a completed first movement to an unfinished quartet by Shostakovich conceived between his 8th and 9th quartets. One of the aspects of the Shostakovich quartets I most admire is that despite their abstract character, with nearly all their movements bearing nothing more than very plain tempo markings, the music almost always communicates a sense of disquiet and emotional preoccupation that far transcends the relative straightforwardness of the thematic content. Further, Shostakovich's structures, while equally plainspoken and rooted in the traditions of the string quartet, have a stream-of-consciousness character that I have chosen to follow in my piece.

It is a curious challenge to be asked to write a fragment in response to a fragment. My title, From the Fifth Book, is intended as a suggestion that this piece may, at some point, become the first movement of a complete string quartet entitled The Fifth Book (by which I mean my fifth book of madrigals). Or, it may remain, as Shostakovich's piece, a promise of something that never came to be.