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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Quincy Porter comes from Connecticut and belongs to the generation of Roy Harris, Howard Hanson and Roger Sessions. After his time at Yale, he studied in Paris with Vincent d’Indy and then later in Cleveland with Bloch. After various academic appointments he ended up at Yale as professor of music (1946–65). He is probably best known for the Viola Concerto that William Primrose championed, but his output also included nine string quartets, the last finished in 1959. The first four accommodated on this disc were composed over the period 1922–31 and are highly civilized and beautifully crafted pieces. There is as one might expect, a Gallic feel to much of it, but the listener is held throughout and the composer has a fine sense of line; the contrapuntal writing and the texture are always transparent and full of interest. A very enjoyable disc which whets one’s appetite for the remaining five quartets.

Greg Barns
The Mercury (Tasmania, Australia), October 2007

These string quartets were written when Porter was a relatively young man but the haunting melodies and bitter-sweet imagery conveyed by the four of them show the composer's maturity. There are elements of Bartok and even fellow American Charles Ives in these works but they are firmly within the neo-classical tradition. The Ives Quartet's sensitive playing makes for intriguing listening.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2007

This comes very high on my list of the most enjoyable 20th century quartet discs I have had the pleasure of reviewing. William Quincy Porter was born in New Haven in 1897 and showed an affinity to the violin before his teenage years. Mature studies took him to Yale University where he was a pupil of Horatio Parker, the guiding hand a quarter of a century earlier for the young Charles Ives. Porter moved to Paris in 1919 to work with d'Indy, and on his return to the States went to Cleveland to study with Ernest Bloch. A further three year period in Paris finally removed any potential for him to become a true national American composer, his output always indebted to European influences. He was not the world's most prolific composer, but his portfolio contained seven string quartets, the first four included on this disc. He had dropped his first name by the time the twenty-five-year-old was working on the First Quartet, which coincided with his days under Bloch's tuition. It is a rather self-conscious student piece where we can feel influences pulling him in many directions. Yet there is much evidence of a young composer at ease working in the quartet medium and expertly handling the interplay between instruments. For one so young the central Andante is heavily burdened with sadness, the gloom lifted in the proactive finale. Coming just two years later there is a quantum leap forward to the Second Quartet, the debt to Bartok obvious in mood and texture, the outer movements short, while the soulful central Adagio takes its time to unfold. If Porter seems tempted towards atonality, it soon passes, the finale easy on the ear though often quirky. There was now a gap of five years before he completed the Third. Red-blooded, tonal, and pounding rhythms driving the opening movement forward, with memorable themes lodging in the memory. If the previous work had a leaning to Bartok, here we have a score that could well have come from the Hungarian, and I am sure he would have been pleased to own it. The Fourth followed one year later, the style more abstract, atonality now taking hold of the opening movement, with the sadness we find in the slow movement of the First now even more poignant. The finale lifts the gloom, but only fitfully. The sleeve notes give no reason as to why the quartets are here played out of order, maybe placing the opening movement of the Third as the first track was intended to grab our attention - which it surely does. I certainly doubt that we could ever expect more characterful performances, the Ives Quartet so deeply into Porter's style and mood. Though technically demanding, there is a sense of the easy virtuosity that removes thoughts of stress in the performances. Detail is crystal clear even in the most hectic passages, while the recording made last year in California is just about as close as we will get to having the musicians in our listening room. Fervently commended.

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