String Quartets

String Quartets

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“[This] American composer knows the importance of embracing the past while also going his own way. … [In] Beck’s forceful and expressive sound world … the writing is concise in structure and generous in tonal language, savouring both the dramatic and the poetic. … [t]he First Quartet … moves organically from solemn to invigorating ideas, with ample contrapuntal interplay to keep the narratives rich and layered. … [T]he Second Quartet … is a striking and intensely felt work. Likewise, the Fifth Quartet makes a haunting impression in three movements of contrasting utterances.”

– Donald Rosenberg, Gramophone (Dec. 2013)

“… appealing and skillfully crafted … Beck writes in lush tonal harmonies … and the moody expressiveness of Beck’s writing is its own reward. The String Quartet No. 4, which leads off the disc, strikes me as most successful – the four movements are terse but finely balanced, and they call out tellingly to one another. But the other pieces here each have their own dark-hued allure, and the performances – by the San Gabriel, Nevsky and Da Kappo String Quartets – are all fluid and assured.”

– Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle (SF Gate)
(Oct. 24, 2013)


The history of the string quartet is well-known and its influence long-lasting. The masterworks composed by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven as well as those created by Bartók, Ravel, Berg and Shostakovich continue to move listeners with their passionate intensity and intimate beauty.

The string quartet is often considered to be a touchstone for a composer of Western concert music. The genre and its history inspire many composers to inhabit and explore the concentrated nature of this medium, for through such focus and the seeming limitation of four equal voices, expansive emotional landscapes may be realized.

My string quartets provide an intriguing and inviting window into my own direct and communicative sound world. Composed over nearly 25 years, four of my five quartets are brilliantly performed here by diverse ensembles from Los Angeles, St. Petersburg, Russia, and Louisville, Kentucky. These compositions reveal key facets of my approach to tonality, rhythm and form.

In this September, 2013 interview on WUOL (Louisville, KY), I discuss my compositional background, approach and influences related to the works on this recording.

Works on this CD include:

String Quartet No. 4

String Quartet No. 1

San Gabriel Quartet (Los Angeles)

String Quartet No. 2 (“Fathers & Sons”)

– Nevsky String Quartet (St. Petersburg, Russia)

String Quartet No. 5

– Da Kappo Quartet (Louisville, Kentucky)