Gloria Coates

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COMPOSERS: Gloria Coates
WORKS: String Quartet No. 1; String Quartet No. 5; String Quartet No. 6
PERFORMER: Kreutzer Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 8.559091
Having devoted several recent volumes of its American Classics series to indisputably minor late Romantics, Naxos has now come up with a disc of startling modernism. Gloria Coates is actually little known in her native USA, having spent most of the last 30 years in Europe. Her music has some affinities with that of Europeans such as Xenakis and Scelsi; if it has any American quality, it lies in her willingness to approach the venerable medium of the string quartet as a blank slate. This is evident even in the short First Quartet of 1966, which combines a canon with a wide range of sonorities. No. 5 of 1989 is more extreme, consisting of a quarter-tone canon followed by two movements of continuous glissandi in all the parts. The tenuous, slippery sound-world created is fascinating, but at over half an hour the piece challenges concentration and, ultimately, patience. Better paced is No. 6 of 1999, in which the glissandi are confined to the middle movement, surrounded by an opening movement of slow, painful transition and an intensely still finale. The British Kreutzer Quartet, well recorded, tackles all this with apparent authority and fierce concentration. The notes are helpful, and the cover has a striking painting by the composer. Anthony Burton