String Quartet No. 12 .​.​. The Seasons (2010)

by Thomas Oboe Lee

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As indicated by the title, this is my twelfth string quartet. My very first work, Aperture (1974), was a string quartet. In between I wrote four (nos. 2 – 5) for the Kronos Quartet, one (no. 6) for the Manhattan String Quartet, one (no. 7) for the Lydian String Quartet, one (no. 8) for the Artaria String Quartet, two (nos. 9 - 10) for the Hawthorne String Quartet, and one (no. 11) for the Formosa Quartet.

The number twelve immediately brought to mind the months of the year. But I thought a twelve-movement string quartet might be a bit excessive, and difficult to achieve in a coherent narrative arc. Most classical string quartets by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven are in four movements. So why not the seasons, a movement for each: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. I am a huge fan of “The Creation” by Franz Joseph Haydn.

Confession: I am a huge fan of anything by maestro Haydn. For inspiration and guidance, I went to Haydnʼs other oratorio “The Seasons.” Armed with a Dover publication of the full score and a recording of the complete work by Sir Thomas Beecham on EMI Classics, I got down to work over the summer of 2010.

"String Quartet No. 12 ... The Seasons" is in four movements, played without pause between movements.

The work begins with four descending chords, depicting the falling of snow. But itʼs Spring and crocuses are seen peeping through the snow ...

Summer begins with cloudbursts, thunder, lightning and torrential rain. A double rainbow appears after the storm. The sun emerges from the clouds in the Trio section. It is a lovely day after all; but then the clouds return ...

La Caccia: men go hunting in the Autumn. Well, the men in Haydnʼs days at least. Peasant ladies dance as they harvest in the fields. A hawk appears, soaring overhead in the Trio as the sun sets in an orange-red sky ...

In Winter snow falls again; but itʼs the season to celebrate the Nativity. Violin and viola chant “O magnum mysterium” ...

O Magnum Mysterium
Et admirabile sacramentum
Ut animalia viderent Dominum natum Jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
Meruerunt portare
Dominum Christum.

A hailstorm wreaks havoc.



released August 31, 2011

QX Quartet:

Krista Buckland Reisner, violin 1
Rohan Gregory, violin 2
Peter Sulski, viola
Jan Müller-Szeraws, cello

Michael Culler, recording engineer

Music by Thomas Oboe Lee
© Departed Feathers Music, Inc. - BMI

Photo credit: Thomas Oboe Lee



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Thomas Oboe Lee Cambridge, Massachusetts

Thomas Oboe Lee was born in China in 1945. He lived in São Paulo, Brazil, for six years before coming to the United States in 1966. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, he studied composition at the New England Conservatory and Harvard University. He has been a member of the music faculty at Boston College since 1990.
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