The 5th String Quartet Op.126 was commissioned by Music Accord for the Emerson Quartet, to whom the work is dedicated. It is such an honor (and not an unintimidating one!) to write for an ensemble that has been, through their many recordings, such an iconic presence in my own musical development.
This Quartet, like much of my instrumental music, has no extra-musical program - it is as absolute and abstract as music can be – yet, at the same time, I have no doubt that my mindset while composing the piece and its resultant overriding elegiac tone was at least partly influenced by any number of depressing/terrifying events of the kind with which we are all bombarded daily, in what seems more and more like a world gone mad.
The work's mysterious opening, marked "Limpido" ("still") introduces a number of motives which are heard and developed throughout the quartet. Structurally, the Quartet is in one arc-like symmetrical movement consisting of two mostly slow sections flanking a fast section whose structure is, in and of itself, symmetrical. If we think of that central fast section as being akin to a scherzo and trio, then the reprise of the scherzo section is actually an intervallic inversion of its first statement, while the trio section divides at its midpoint, the second half being a mirror image of the first half.
- Lowell Liebermann