...in this cold winter borrows its title (and nothing else) from the many sixteenth-century German tenor-lieder beginning with some variant of "Entlaubet ist der Walde, in Diesem Winter Kalt" ("The forest is defoliated in this cold winter"). The quartet is in two movements of equal length followed by a slightly shorter coda.|
The first movement takes a rhythmically static idea and allows it to grow from quiet, though dissonant, stability to apprehensive, but loud, disorder, only to collapse suddenly under its own weight. The process repeats itself several times stretching the limits of steadiness and fragmentation further with each iteration. A short cadenza for the 'cello leads directly into the quicker second movement. This movement comprises two contrapunctal sections (in 2/2 and 4/4) alternating with two homophonic passages in 3/4. The coda brings the opposition between constancy and nervous instability again to the fore by presenting a chorale, "Die Nacht ist kommen" by J.S. Bach and dissolving it into fragments of the principal thematic and structural material of the piece.
The quartet was premiered on March 5, 1999 by the Harvard Group for New Music.
Wenyi Shih, Ching Ching Chan, violins; Joli Wu, viola; Jennifer Lucht, cello.
Michael Scott Cuthbert (b. 1976) received his undergraduate education at Harvard University, where he graduated with highest honors in 1998. A native of San Diego, Cuthbert is currently a Ph.D. candidate in historical musicology at Harvard. His primary areas of research have been late-medieval polyphony, for which he received a Thomas Hoopes Prize and a Phi Beta Kappa research grant, and trends in composition since 1960. Cuthbert's work integrating computers and music has resulted in projects such as TRECENTO, the on-line database of ars nova Italian music, as well as lighter works like Chamber Music for Typewriters and Inkjet Printers. As a composer, he has studied with Michael Gandolfi. Cuthbert is also an active clarinetist, having worked extensively with Dorea Tate. As a conductor he has directed several of Harvard's chamber groups and orchestras including the Toscanini Chamber Orchestra, where he was Music Director from 1995-96.