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William Zagorski
Fanfare, September 2011

Composers of all stripes, past and present, manipulate the same musical elements—melody, harmony, rhythm, and instrumental (or vocal) sonority. How those elements are prioritized is, and was, a wholly personal matter. History tells us that there are no hard and fast rules. The objective of all composers is to use these elements in ways that create something memorable in the mind of the listener. David L. Post’s elegant and eloquent music enters the listener’s consciousness with ease and leaves it with great difficulty.

Post was born in New York City in 1949. He studied cello with Samuel Reiner and Charles Forbes, and composition with, among others, Charles Whittenberg, Ralph Shapey, Larry Bell, and Lukas Foss. He is also a practicing clinical psychologist (shades of Alexander Borodin!). Musically speaking, one can from time to time spot his mentors, but rest assured that Post’s synthesis of their influences is wholly his own. His melodies and harmonies are often so intertwined that one cannot tell where one ends and the other begins. His fluent counterpoint is, paradoxically, generally melodic in effect, and his attractive homophonic writing always goes its own often surprising way. The sum of his musical manipulations is highly communicative, at times phantasmagoric, and vividly colorful, and provides lyrically inspired musical odysseys replete with unexpected, but always telling, bends in the road.

The first thing that struck me upon auditioning this release was the resourcefulness and effectiveness of the string writing. Glissandi, harmonics, and snap pizzicati, among other devices, are employed. In Post’s language, however, they are not mere coloristic effects, but an organic part of his musical discourse. The second was the responsiveness of the Hawthorne String Quartet (Ronan Lefkowitz and Si-Jing Huang, violins; Mark Ludwig, viola; and Sato Knudsen, cello) to this music’s technical and affective demands. Their carefully blended ensemble balances tease out the beauty of Post’s lyrical utterances, and their rhythmic acuity enables them to negotiate Post’s often demanding metrical constructions with precision and fluency.

The somewhat melancholy Second String Quartet was composed in 2001 on commission from the Martinů Quartet of Prague, which premiered it in 2002. The Hawthorne Quartet gave it its American premiere in that same year. In four movements, it is the most formally conventional of the pieces on this disc. It is based, in fine classical manner, on a brief, serpentine motive uttered at its outset by the viola—a kernel that is continuously developed throughout the following movements and that yields a rich variety of moods and emotions.

String Quartet No. 4 of 2005, titled “Three Photographs of Abelardo Morell,” was composed in celebration of the 300th anniversary of the city of Brookline, Massachusetts. The planners of the festivities wanted to highlight the creative talents of the city’s artistic community, and cited, among others to be featured, the local photographer Abelardo Morell. Post became tasked with the musical realization of three of his works—Camera Obscura Image of Brookline View in Brady’s Room, Book: Pietà, and Map in Sink. Describing visual imagery in sound is akin to trying to describe music in words, but here Post has provided three comparatively free-form and highly evocative musical miniatures.

Composed in 2003, String Quartet No. 3 is an attractively amiable piece in one movement. Its opening section is pastoral with moments of melancholy and almost Brahmsian resignation woven throughout its discourse. It is also, like its string quartet mates, quintessentially American, especially as it morphs effortlessly into ragtime riffs in what would have been, if it were broken up into free standing movements, its scherzo. Its third section revisits and distills the pensive essence of the quartet’s opening as it brings the work to its close.

Fantasia on a Virtual Choral of 2003 is based on Josef Suk’s Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale “Saint Wenceslas”. Post states that it was written backwards in that the development precedes the theme—a device that, in the right hands, can provide an insightful view of the inherent beauties of the theme. Post pulls it off in fine fashion, creating along the way yet another highly moving miniature. In its just under eight-minutes duration, it presents a microcosm of Post’s string quartet art.

The sound on this release is airy, detailed, and fully suited to the music.

The string quartet is among the most challenging of musical media. Post, in his liner notes to this release, considers it “the pinnacle of musical expression.” A musical distillate wherein the minimum in terms of available lines, sonic color, and dynamic range can produce the maximum in terms of affective power and musical eloquence, it brought out the best from its inventor Haydn, and then Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Bartók, and Shostakovich…and the list goes on. For a composer with the temerity to take on its challenges, Post goes on to say, “There is no place to hide.”

Given the evidence here, David L. Post is a serious and worthy contender.

Stephen Eddins, August 2011

American composer David Post’s (born 1949) background as a cellist and his experience playing string quartets serve him well in his writing for strings. The outstanding characteristics of the four works for string quartet recorded here are the assured fluency and idiomatic mastery of his string writing and his ability to make the ensemble sound fabulous. The…Fantasia on a Virtual Choral and the Third Quartet (2003) and the Fourth Quartet (2005), are considerably freer, more distinguished works. The Fantasia…is solidly neo-Romantic in style but it communicates authentic emotional depth and avoids sounding derivative. The Fourth Quartet is also a strong piece whose first movement is especially imaginative and evocative. The Hawthorne Quartet, whose members also play in the Boston Symphony, performs with a warmly blended, sweet tone and secure technique, making the most of the harmonic lushness of the scores. The warmth of the recorded sound beautifully suits the Romantic atmosphere of the music.

Stephen Estep
American Record Guide, May 2011

Will we ever be able to thank Naxos enough for giving us so many inexpensive, easily available, decent quality recordings of worthwhile if lesser known pieces? David Post is a case in point: here we have three excellent quartets and a short fantasia, all played with elegance by the Hawthorne group, recorded with a spacious sound…

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Robert Cummings
MusicWeb International, March 2011

When hearing the works of a contemporary composer for the first time, my initial inclination is to search for influences in the music. But these string quartets by David L. Post resist easy analysis to that end. I can hear snatches of a sort of generic American style here, perhaps vague suggestions of Barber, Diamond or Quincy Porter, or even Ives. But there’s a slightly cosmopolitan character here too: once in a while you might even hear a faint echo of Vaughan Williams. But, really, none of these influences are dominant, or particularly significant in Post’s music. What some listeners may find significant, however, is that Post exhibits a spiritual, though not stylistic connection, to Shostakovich in his tendency toward dark moods and sinister undercurrents. Indeed, and Post’s scherzos and burlesques aren’t jokes but seem to slash away at something, and his moments of merriment often are either fleeting or seem headed toward some disaster or disappointment. Among Post’s teachers was composer Ralph Shapey, but you hear nothing in the way of influence from him in these quartets either. In the end then, one must conclude that Post is largely his own man.

He has written the notes to this album and in them states his affinity for the string quartet idiom, which he believes to be a very high art form in music. His music is tonal and quite approachable, with tunes you may well remember, even if they aren’t extremely catchy.

The Second Quartet leads off and you immediately notice a dark sense of urgency in the first movement, marked Moderato. The ensuing Scherzo opens with bold pizzicato notes from the cello and then the violins and viola slash and shriek with sinister delight. This might be the most compelling movement on the disc. The Molto lento that follows is slow and eerie, with fleeting phrases of sweetness and hope souring and despairing. The Allegro agitato finale begins boldly, but in the darker spirit of the Scherzo, and the mood throughout remains mostly grim.

The Fantasia on a Virtual Choral was inspired by Joseph Suk’s Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale ‘Saint Wenceslas’. It is a brighter work, but its upside-down design, with development preceding exposition, may seem a bit confusing to listeners. It comes across as a pleasant but rather minor work.

The Fourth String Quartet, which comes next on the disc, comprises three movements, each depicting the image in a photograph taken by Cuban-born Massachusetts photographer Abelardo Morell. The three movements here carry as subtitles the names of the Morell photographs: 1.) Camera Obscura Image of Brookline View in Brady’s Room; 2.) Book Pietà; and 3.) Map in Sink. Again, the moods are dark, and the music in the first two movements is mostly moderately paced, but with the opening panel intense and mysterious. The middle movement is quite lovely in its depiction of the photo of El Greco’s Pietà. The finale opens with an insistent ostinato that imparts a feeling of urgency; gradually a sense of desperation develops, relieved only when the closing chords emphatically shut the door.

The single-movement Third String Quartet consists of four inner sections. It begins in a relatively bright mood that occasionally yields to dark clouds. As the work progresses the sense of hope that appeared at the outset and in a few episodes of jollity fades, and grayness turns to darkness and darkness to utter blackness. The composer mentions that the work was begun “at the beginning of the Iraqi war.” He elaborates no further on the work’s connection to the war, but one might just sense a war-inspired link here and apparent negative feelings about that once bloody and ferocious conflict.

The membership of the Hawthorne String Quartet is drawn from the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The Hawthorne play each work here with utter commitment. The composer wrote the Fourth Quartet at the suggestion of the ensemble’s violist, and presumably Post has a good relationship with the group. In any event, the Hawthorne play spiritedly throughout, delivering performances that would seem hard to surpass for years to come. Naxos provides excellent sound. These quartets are worthwhile compositions, and chamber music mavens willing to sample fairly approachable contemporary works should find the disc rewarding.

Joshua Kosman
San Francisco Chronicle, February 2011

American composer David L. Post claims a fondness for the string quartet, and you can hear it in the pieces on this rewarding disc—not only in how skillfully he handles the medium but also in how careful he is not to push it outside its comfort zone. I suppose that’s a euphemistic way of saying that Post’s approach to the string quartet is fairly conservative, even when his harmonic language is not. He favors the sorts of gestures that have been in play since the heyday of Beethoven: lots of counterpoint, flowing instrumental chorales, big and sometimes brusque chords. Yet none of that interferes with the pleasure of hearing these techniques afresh, conveying alluring melodies and rich, slightly aggressive rhythms. Post’s String Quartet No. 2, cast in a traditional four-movement guise, leads into the pictorialism of the String Quartet No. 4, based on three photographs by Abelardo Morell. But the real treasure here is the final offering, the long one-movement String Quartet No. 3, in which the richness of Post’s harmonies and the fluency of his rhetoric reach new heights. The performances by the Hawthorne String Quartet are dynamic and eloquent.

David Vernier, February 2011

Back in the time when the string quartet was invented, melody—fertile and pliable, whether clever and catchy or at least affecting or in some other way memorable—was a central component, allied to a discernible harmonic structure. Well, this is the 21st century, not the 18th (all of the works here were written since 2000), and the thing you’re first and foremost aware of in David L. Post’s very fine quartets is texture. While there are certainly thematic elements at play throughout, they are one with the multitude of textural factors—including pizzicato, register effects, multiple-stopping, and harmonics—such that you perceive everything as a whole, not as one component superior to or supported by another. It all flows straight on, organically growing and developing to a conclusion that feels natural and absolutely uncontrived.

And the more you listen you can’t help but appreciate the conceptually rich, seemingly effortlessly idiomatic string writing—make that string quartet writing—that was lost for a few decades but declares its return in works such as these. After all, you’re still listening after five minutes, 10 minutes, a half hour—and thankfully there are no gimmicks, no tricks (yes, there is a "Martians are landing" moment in the finale to the Second quartet, but it’s just cool, not tacky or extraneous).

What you will discover here—thanks also to the technically solid, articulate, and sensitive playing of the Hawthorne Quartet—is music for intelligent, musically savvy listeners who, while they may be able to appreciate, say, the stupefyingly difficult, tediously worked out music of Elliott Carter, just want to sit back and enjoy some string quartet music with some heart and soul. I know—you may be hesitant about taking a chance on string quartets from a guy born in 1949 (which I have to say was a great year); he would have come of age as a composer in the tangled disorder of the 1960s and ’70s. But do not fear; this is really good music, worthy of repeated listening and certainly of inclusion in the repertoire of any respectable modern quartet. Highly recommended.

Michael Quinn
The Classical Review, February 2011

Chamber music has long been a preoccupation of David L. Post, the multi-faceted New York-born composer, editor, clinical psychologist and novelist, with the “direct and intimate” appeal of the string quartet proving particularly alluring over the past decade and more.

His debut in the Naxos American Classics series includes his three most recent quartets—Nos. 2, 3 and 4—and the Fantasia on a Virtual Choral, all of which simultaneously reveal Post’s musical roots in the European quartet tradition of Martinů, Suk and Bartók, and a questing concern for contemporary relevance. What results from such a dichotomy is music that is considered, intelligent, immediately digestible and rewarding of repeated listening.

Fittingly enough, the Second String Quartet was commissioned, in 2001, by the Martinů Quartet, and first heard the following year at the Festival of Contemporary Music in the Czech capital, Prague. That same year, the Boston-based Hawthorne String Quartet gave the work its American premiere and subsequently took it back to Prague in a benefit concert in the city’s castle for the Terezín Memorial (which commemorates the atrocities of the Nazi concentration camp in the town), from where this recording derives.

Composed in four conventional movements, it is built around an opening motif of four pairs of half-step intervals that are spun out into often robustly inter-twined elaborations that wouldn’t seem out of place alongside the string quartets of Martinů or early Bartók. The Hawthornes take the Scherzo second movement’s Allegro aggressivo marking to heart, turning in a sinewy, biting performance that is unabashed by its sharp, jagged edges and unafraid of its brief moment of poetic repose.

There’s much of Janáček in the dark, jagged intricacies and chill, shivering strings of the grave Molto lento third movement, and Bartók is called pressingly to mind again in the feverish quality of the Allegro agitato finale, the Boston players proving themselves nimble and nuanced interpreters throughout.

Dating from 2003, the Third Quartet—four tightly woven sections in an extended, single movement—was begun as war in Iraq erupted. Post, in one of his many guises as a clinical psychologist, is best
placed to know what (if any) influence the event had on his music, but it moves between lyricism of an almost pastoral quality, coruscating dyspepsia, and elegiac keening with an adroitness that draws playing full of compassion, character and clout from the Hawthorne String Quartet, who also commissioned the Fourth Quartet in 2005.

Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, it was written to mark the 300th anniversary of the city of Brookline, Massachusetts, and takes as its starting point three black-and-white photographs (rather poorly reproduced in the accompanying booklet) by Boston resident Abelardo Morell.

Post catches the oddly unsettling quality of Morell’s camera obscura-accented images in music that is discreetly allusive, evocatively nuanced, and infused with a brimming sense of ambiguity. Janáček is again the touchstone here (noticeably so in the first two sections) the separate string lines bristling with rough-edged textures and shot through with dappled shards of light. The third movement, ‘Map in Sink’, is a different (though by no means dislocating) matter altogether, wearing its modernity on its sleeve with a becomingly confident aplomb. The whole coaxes fervently idiomatic playing from the Hawthornes, not least in ‘Book: Pieta by El Greco’, which boils over as the work’s fulcrum with agitated emotion.

The Fantasia on a Virtual Choral, composed in the same year as the Third String Quartet, takes as its starting point Josef Suk’s Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale ‘Saint Wenceslas’. The obvious vivacity of the writing—realized with quicksilver dash and élan—is driven by a beguiling romantic urge framed and focused by the work’s relatively brief seven-minute length.

Although positioned by Naxos as contemporary American Classics, Post’s music seems to belong just as much to a particular time and place in a part of Europe that is far away and long gone.

Joshua Meggitt
Cyclic Defrost, February 2011

Naxos note the ‘approachability, clarity and humanity’ of David L. Post’s string quartets, which makes him sound sound blandly populist. Fortunately this is not at all the case: these are rigorously thought through, occasionally dissonant, engaging pieces. Post is not the first composer to consider the string quartet the ‘pinnacle of musical expression’, but his contribution to the form is impressive.

Of all the great string quartet composers Post most closely recalls Shostakovich, but there’s a greater fluidity here, as Post skilfully slides through themes and ideas, creating drama from at times stark contrast, leading to unusual yet satisfying resolutions. The Second String Quartet of 2001 brings moments of fierce angularity and surprise to a standard four movement structure, set against passages of marked restraint.

His Fourth String Quartet is more emotional, its three movements reacting, abstractly, to photographs by Abelardo Morell. The Third String Quartet is the bleakest, commenced at the start of the Iraq war it artfully avoids the sentimentalising of traditional wartime music in favour of a cold and measured distance. There’s also Fantasia on a Virtual Space, an amusing take on Josef Suk’s Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale ‘Saint Wenceslas’, shades of Bartók in the jagged hints of Eastern folk.

MusicWeb International, February 2011

Insistence by Naxos that pretty much all the American music it issues goes under the “American Classics” rubric is vexatious, to say the least. Though the title is often appropriate, as when featuring the key works of Copland, Ives or Carter, but in the case of very late 20th century and 21st century music, it is a double misnomer—for one, because the music is too recent for that accolade to make any sense, and secondly, the music is sometimes not really good enough.

Occasionally, however, the music is so immediately and obviously excellent that there is no question of waiting to see—and that is the case here. David Post may be a practising clinical psychologist, but he is also, on the evidence of this disc, a remarkable composer—not only inventive and technically capable, but also a superb communicator. Anyone fond of the quartets of composers ranging from George Antheil to Walter Piston, or, outside the US, from Bohuslav Martinu to David Matthews, will surely be thrilled to discover any of these works.

The disc opens with the String Quartet no.2, which was commissioned by the Martinu Quartet, who gave its world première performance in Prague in 2002. Since then the Hawthorne Quartet have made it their own, having given the American première later the same year. Traditionally structured—moderato first movement, followed by a scherzo, slow movement and allegro finale—the quartet has a traditional mid-20th century feel to it too, despite the modern idiom. The scherzo and finale are particularly thrilling.

The String Quartet no.4, ‘Three Photographs of Abelardo Morell’ was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Morell is a Cuban émigré of Post’s generation. Post wrote a movement for each of three chosen photos, all thoughtfully reproduced by Naxos in the booklet, albeit in black and white. The three photographs/movements are entitled: ‘Camera Obscura Image of Brookline View in Brady’s Room’, ‘Pietà by El Greco’ (a photo of an open book, and shortened to ‘Book: Pietà’ by Post) and ‘Map in Sink’—literally a picture of a map in a wash-sink. Not obvious material for a string quartet, and the movements are indeed fairly short, yet the results are outstanding—imaginative, evocative, warm—and quite deserving of that nomination.

The final piece on the disc is the String Quartet no.3, a single-movement work, though in four sections with fairly traditional tempo markings. This is the most memorable of three memorable quartets, and also the most melancholic, with light-hearted and wistful passages interwoven. The fading to nothing at the very end, beautifully controlled by the Hawthornes, strikes a heart-rending note.

The Fantasia on a Virtual Choral was inspired by Josef Suk’s ‘Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale ‘St Wenceslas’’ for string quartet. ‘Virtual’ refers to the idea that the chorale elements do not coalesce until the very end of the piece; before that there are only “swirling bits and pieces” of it, in the composer’s words. Less profound than the quartets as might be expected, this is nonetheless an attractive work.

Even though the recordings were made over a period of five years, sound quality is consistently very good, though in a few spots a very low rumbling of distant traffic can be heard. A minor quibble is that the CD is a trifle on the short side—no room for String Quartet no.1?

Rather curiously, the Hawthorne Quartet are named after the 19th century novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, but there is nothing puritanical about their playing, which is always wholehearted and expressive, not to mention expertly intonated.

David Post writes in the liner-notes that “the string quartet has always seemed to me to be the pinnacle of musical expression.” His three quartets are far more than a modest contribution to the genre, and are more than worthy of the ‘American Classics’ badge.

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, January 2011

The four selections by American composer David L. Post (b. 1949) on this release are significant additions to the body of music for string quartet. Beautifully constructed, intellectually stimulating and immediately approachable, this is contemporary music at its most engaging.

The concert begins with the second quartet of 2001 commissioned by the Martinů Quartet, and hearing it one would have to say they really got their money’s worth! In four movements, the opening moderato begins with an eight-note, semitone row (ES) which is the idée fixe for the entire work. Using contrapuntal devices, Post then proceeds to elaborate and develop ES with consummate skill proving he’s a master of the quartet medium.

The catchy scherzo that’s next has jazzy outer sections with a pizzicato walking bass line for the cello, surrounding a meditative episode of more romantic persuasion. This foreshadows the following lento, which is an intricate offering featuring a lovely extended melody with jarring points of inflection, all derived from ES.

In the concluding allegro showers of notes alternate with patches of lyrical sunshine highlighted by avian glissandi on the high strings. The ES motif is again pervasive and takes a final bow in the closing coda, ending the quartet with a great sense of unity.

The brief Fantasia on a Virtual Choral from 2003 was inspired by Josef Suk’s (1874–1935) Meditation on the Old Czech Hymn “St Wenceslas” (1914), which was also originally for string quartet. The beginning is a swirling mist of vaporous references to the chorale. These gradually materialize into the big tune, but not for long as it fades into oblivion.

Post’s fourth quartet (2005) is subtitled “Three Photographs of Abelardo Morell.” The opening movement is after Morell’s “Camera Obscura Image of Brookline View in Brady’s Room”. Like the picture that inspired it, the piece is ambiguously mysterious in some places as opposed to distinctly playful in others.

The next movement is in two arches just like those formed by the open pages shown in the second photo titled “Book: Pietà”. Emotionally wrought and in the late romantic vein, this is very moving heartfelt music. It’s in complete contrast to the closing section, “Map in Sink”. Here repeated seven-note rows suggest latitude-longitude markings, while shifting string textures could well represent land features on the subject map.

In a single twenty-minute span consisting of four connected sections, the third quartet (2003) is a masterpiece of structural concision. The busy opening excites the ear, and contains passages hinting of Bohuslav Martinů’s (1890–1959) string quartets (1912–47). The inner two sections take the form of an ominously Stygian adagio [track-9, beginning at 04:30] with a hint of dyspepsia, and entomologically twitchy scherzo [track-9, beginning at 09:54].

The finale, described by the composer as tenebroso [track-9, beginning at 13:25], sees a return of “the dark side.” Gloom and despair prevail right through to the end of the quartet as it disintegrates into the vacuum of space.

All members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Hawthorne Quartet musicians easily live up to their mother organization’s legendary reputation. Highly acclaimed in the past for their discs championing the music of Czech composers incarcerated in Theresienstadt by the Nazis (1941–45), they now turn to contemporary America with these equally compelling performances. Their attention to detail and the sensitivity with which they perform these scores will add all the more to your enjoyment of some extraordinary new chamber music.

Made on different occasions between 2002 and 2007 in the same Prague studio, the recordings project slightly different soundstages. The second and third quartets are spread across a generous space in a reverberant acoustic with string tone that’s a bit wiry. The fantasy and third quartet seem slightly more confined in comparison, but present more natural sounding strings. And just for the record, there are a couple of low frequency rumbles in the fantasy probably from nearby traffic.

WRUV Reviews, January 2011

David L. Post (b. 1949) is a cellist, composer and practicing clinical psychologist. His works are contemporary, yet have a traditional quality. Interesting!

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2011

David Post joins that ever growing school of American composers who are reconnecting with audiences who have become disenfranchised by the excesses of atonality. That does not necessitate the composer deserting the use of new and innovative sounds, or allowing music to stagnate, his quartets refreshing in his personally created style. I wish I could give you an easy guide by reference to more frequently heard composers, but if you enjoy, for instance, the musical world of Martinu, then it would be safe to add Post to your collection. The second quartet dates from 2001 and is in four conventional movements each of similar length, the busy scherzo being particularly attractive. The Third came two years later, the composer’s notes commenting that it obstinately refused to be anything other than one continuous movement containing several changing moods. The section that would normally be a scherzo has jazzy rhythms that are immediately engaging. The conclusion, by contrast, is dark and sombre. Another two years elapse before the Fourth, subtitled ‘Three Photographs of Abelardo Morell’. The photographs he used are reproduced in the booklet, their images taking him down a track of modernity that seemingly fits less happily into the style he had created. The Fantasia is much different, and was inspired by Suk’s well-known Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale ‘Saint Wenceslas’ . The result is most appealing. Throughout I have to take the Hawthorne String Quartet’s performances at face value, for they do have that feel of dedication, the Boston-based group technically well-equipped to meet the music’s demands. For some reason they were recorded in Prague between 2002 and 2007. The sound is admirable.

Snap Magazine (J&, January 2011

Atonal musings from the Pulitzer Prize-nominated composer

Part of the Naxos label’s “American Classics” series, this recording features Pulitzer Prize-nominated composer David L. Post’s atonal musings on everything from a picture by a Boston photographer to a piece by Czech composer Josef Suk. The Hawthorne String Quartet gives life to these pieces, all written in the past decade., December 2010

for David L. Post (born 1949), chamber works are altogether more serious—even though this American composer (who is also a practicing clinical psychologist) writes music that is as approachable in his time…. A new recording of three of Post’s four string quartets actually includes, as a fourth work, a piece tied firmly to the Romantic era: Fantasia on a Virtual Chorale, which takes off from Meditation on the Saint Wenceslas Chorale, written in Romantic style in 1914 by Josef Suk (1874–1935). Post’s Fantasia is respectful of the earlier work and exists mainly in the same tonal idiom, making it quite easy to listen to for a work written in the 21st century. The three quartets here are somewhat tougher going for listeners, but nowhere near as difficult as those of, say, Béla Bartók or Elliott Carter. Although Post studied with Lucas Foss (among others), his music communicates more directly than the often-difficult pieces of Foss and many other American moderns. In particular, Post’s fourth string quartet—called “Three Photographs of Abelardo Morell” and inspired by that Massachusetts photographer’s work—effectively paints, in musical sounds, three scenes that Morell captured with his camera, bringing the work of a visual medium into interesting display in an aural one. Although this quartet was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, it is no better constructed than the second and third quartets (although it is differently constructed). The Hawthorne String Quartet has made Post’s music something of a specialty, and these performances are full of conviction, intensity and, where appropriate, warmth. Like other modern music, Post’s will not be to all tastes, but it is convincing throughout on its own terms, showing that for moderns as well as Romantics (and, indeed, for Classical-era composers back to Haydn), the string quartet can be a highly effective communication medium despite its small ensemble size and the similar tone of its component instruments.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group