Chamber Music by Robert HELPS
Piano Quartet (1997-98) [violin, viola, ‘cello, piano] — One of the composer’s most significant creations, weighty but steeped in the consummate casualness he cherished. The origin for this work was a piano piece whose strangeness puzzled even its author. He initially called this lunar emanation Radiance. Inspired by the supple scoring of Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps (whose harmonic language is also evoked in a veiled manner), he made this solo the first movement of his Piano Quartet commissioned by the Koussevitsky Foundation. Several strophes of this solo prelude are subsequently “orchestrated” as the fourth movement. The inner movements try to lighten the mood between such visionary concentration, but seem to remain inextricably caught within its fascination. A fifth movement delightfully extends this spellbreaking légèreté past the imputed end of the piece after which “the players gossip.” (Perhaps a reinvestigation of his “conversation” piece Chatting?) The Piano Quartet is addictively bewitching, but moderation is not recommended.
Duration: 25 minutes.