Elliott Schwartz, born in New York City in 1936, has an extensive university CV: his music reveals a well-stocked mind fully alert to musical and non-musical art forms alike. The musical language may recall Gubaidulina and Kancheli: quoted scraps of pre-existing classics thrown into the mix are intended to parallel the sculptures of Louise Nevenson, who combined tiny shards of material with monolithic structures – though cynical listeners might consider them as piggy-backing on other composers’ success, and the music’s overriding lack of momentum put me more in mind of Dali’s melting clock-faces.
The opening 21-minute Quartet No.2 is tough: the veiled (possibly inadvertent?) reference to Mahler’s Tenth at the beginning is not mentioned in the booklet note. Speeches intoned by the players towards – but not at – the end have yet to convince me, meanwhile threatening to undermine the structure as a whole. The second part of Memorial, for violin and piano, may be a better place for newcomers to start, followed by the 14 minute Tapestry for piano trio.
The closing string orchestra Water Music incorporates recorded sounds of nature plus more-or-less overt quotations from Handel, Chopin and other aquatically titled pieces. Booklet note comparisons with Copland and Brahms are presumptuous, but Schwartz’s is certainly an individual voice.