I had wondered what might have happened to Nicholas Sackman. His impressive “A Pair of Wings” for three sopranos and ensemble of 1973 made a lasting impact upon me and for many reasons. One was that it was amazing mature work for someone in their early twenties. Now Metier have this quartet and his Piano Sonata (MSV CD92008) available and they are to be highly commended for their welcome enterprise.
His String Quartet no 2 is an exceptional work. The first performance was part of a Mozart: Preconstruction and Deconstruction concert in 1991 and, as the composer writes, the work contains “memories of Mozart some of which are fairly explicit.” Frankly, I do not think this to be vitally important. I listened to it as an original piece, which it is.
The opening movement is full of varied sounds, energy and joyful enthusiasm. It is rich, engaging, exciting and it is music that has to be listened to, such is the power and conviction of the work. The slow movement is also remarkable having an obvious coherence that makes it wholly and logically satisfying and it has moments of genuine beauty. The finale is equally well-constructed and it is so refreshing to find a composer of real allegros, music that is quick and lively. There is no sensationalism here but honest, captivating and real music. This is a genuine string quartet and, therefore, a rarity. A truly memorable work. One hesitates to say it but it is almost a perfect work.
George Nicholson’s String Quartet no 3 is in one movement and is in five continuous sections. It has a different sound world than Sackman’s piece with its natural harmonies and tremolando figures. It is an introspective work and it has within its pages a rich variety, and yet the music is not brief episodes stuck together but, rather, the complete material is well-integrated. As with the Sackman there is a rich lyricism but, perhaps, Nicholson’s quartet is the more profound in statement whereas the Sackman is more immediate.
But both quartets are works of a rare and distinctive quality and the Bochmann Quartet’s performances are convincing. I would not want to be without this disc.