Ives Quartet continue outstanding Quincy Porter series

Quincy Porter was a well-respected American composer and pedagogue. Although he composed several concertos and two symphonies, his reputation rests primary on his nine string quartets.

A contemporary of Aaron Copland and Howard Hanson, Porter wrote absolute music that tended to use established forms. But that didn’t limit his imagination at all.

This is the second volume in the Ives Quartet’s traversal of Porter’s quartets. The ensemble has a very rich, warm recorded sound that seems quite appropriate to these post-romantic compositions.

Porter’s fifth string quartet, written in 1935 is somber and introspective in character. It’s contrasted by The sixth, written two years later. That quartet has an edge to it, with a restless energy in places (especially the first movement).

The seventh quartet was composed during World War II, and seems poised between to worlds. It has a light, open sound with some memorable motifs that seem a little old-fashioned. Yet its extended chromaticism in places obscures the tonality and some of the repeated rhythms seem to look ahead.

The post-war eighth string quartet is new music for a brave new world. It’s much more aggressive than the other quartets on this album, and highly chromatic in a way that borders on the atonal (without crossing the line). Yet Porter is at heart a traditionalist, so even in this most modern of his works, melody is still paramount.

Highly recommended to anyone interested in exploring American repertoire.

Quincy Porter: String Quartets Nos. 5-8
Ives Quartet
Naxos 8.559781

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