String Quartet - III Presto​-​Largo

from by Efraín Amaya

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When I wrote this piece I wanted to combine very different aspects that were influencing me. I had my Latin American background, my attraction to modal music and the intellectualized aspects of western music that were fed to me during my student life. The first movement is in a quasi sonatina form, starting in a fugato manner with the ascending open strings of the instruments as the subject. This is followed by a march-like cell that will act as a motif throughout the movement. The ascending fifth fugato subject is presented a couple of times more, each time in a different context interchanging with the march motif until the viola introduces in a hidden manner a modal “theme,” grouped in a three-eighth-note pattern. These two cells are at this moment closely related but as the movement develops they grow apart becoming clearly distinct, especially the three-eighth-note modal “theme” against the binary spirit of the march. The second movement opens with a simple modal theme creating a very peaceful, almost religious mood that is interrupted by a chromatic gesture in the second violin, representing doubt and disbelieve. What takes place in this movement is a conflict between belief and skepticism with a partial resolution. The third movement, based on Latin American rhythms, begins with the confrontation between the half step (chromatism) and the whole step (modalism). Followed by a bridge on the Cello that leads to a very folky sounding theme. This rhythmical drive winds down to a Largo section that introduces a modal melody interrupted by the second violin playing the half step “motif,” linking the music to the “A” section of this movement, but a half step higher, recapitulating with the same folky theme. From this moment on this theme will start alienating itself until it breaks down, leading us again to a Largo “codetta,” where the modal melody is presented again followed by the resolution of the second movement modal theme. With the questioning of the half step, whole step motif in the second violin the piece dies away to a pizzicati ending.


from A Sense of Time, released May 22, 2001
Cuarteto Latinoamericano


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Efraín Amaya Minot, North Dakota

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