"Gloria Coates (b. 1938) writes gloriously expressive music that's also sometimes disorienting. That's meant as a compliment. She has fashioned a mesmerizing and unique language from hovering harmonic clouds and her signature gesture -- the glissando (sliding pitches). And in a work like the String Quartet No. 7 for strings and organ, the long downward glides mix with brazen and spooky organ chords and Charles Ives-like hymn quotes to create an alluring aural vertigo.
Coates is best known for her beguiling symphonies, but this Naxos survey, which includes five works dating to 1972, reveals her powerful voice in the string quartet medium. I was especially taken with the Fourth Quartet (1976), where the beautiful siren-like slides in the opening movement give way to a darkly beautiful adagio molto and a highly rhythmic finale that Bartok surely would have loved: No one is writing music quite like this THREE STARS.