Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Contemporary American composer Ben Weber's "Lyric Piece for String Quartet," introduced to Library of Congress audiences Thursday by the Juilliard players, may seem inaptly named by some.
Such an expression is usually associated with passionate, plaintive expressions, on the order of a composer like Samuel Barber, to cite another contemporary.
But certainly such is not the case with these highly chromatic melodies lines, littered with off-beat pizzicato punctuations. If the work's harmonic direction was unclear, that seemed deliberate, and was affirmed by the ambuvalent final chord, with its first violin note spotlighting this point by going into a high register.
One acute observe noted during intermission that the music's pessimisic message was not so much "give in" as "give up." I think the piece was somewhat more aimless than this suggests. It is a musical delineation of personal alienation as it was commonly conceived in its time (1940).
The works surrounding the Weber were Haydn's D major Quartet, Op. 20, No. 4, and Brahams' B flat major Quartet. Both are full of simple, seemingly innocent melodies subjected to the most severe rhythmic and her monic stresses. The Julliard is rea lly in its element here.