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Jack Gabel

Spring Quartet
and selected works
for strings

performed by


Avant Garde
upc# 6 11226 00202 2

Duration: 70 min.

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Jack Gabel in Review

Gabel image
photo: © 1999 Francoise Simoneau

"Questi cinque lavori di musica da camera di Jack Gabel non sono innovativi, né forse aspirano ad esserlo. Figurano melodie soavi e pacificate, d'altri tempi, un po' retrò forse."
-- Lucia Caponi - Altri Suoni

"Jack Gabel is the most unpredictable composer in Portland. No one else mixes humor, theater, dance and electronics with live, acoustic music in quite the same chamber combinations. Spring Quartet offers a lively pair of melodic violins over bustling viola and cello. Gentle pulses and sustained chords fill a slow movement reminiscent of late Beethoven, while short, jabbing syncopations recall the exuberance of Aaron Copland's "Rodeo."   fEARnoMUSIC, the Portland new-music group, plays with clear purpose and serious charm."
-- David Stabler - The Oregonian

"...intriguingly brainy yet intensely heartfelt Portland composer..."
-- Grant Menzies - Willamette Week

"...Gabel's appealing work sounded like no one else's... a unique and valuable Northwest voice."
-- Brett Campbell, Eugene Weekly

"...the aural ecstasy of Turtle Island...One of the most original and challenging CDs I've heard all year...a dreamtime journey that is as contemplative as it is hallucinatory."
-- Matthew Moon, Crossroads

" Hellenic Triptych... hails from another musical world... epitomizes imagination and courage..."
-- Eleonora M. Beck - Sforzando

" In the Land of Wu...a remarkably quieting piece, it has an affecting sense of great emotional space."
-- John Duffy, Choral Magazine

" Whale Hunt Dream... evocative, mysterious tone poem of considerable beauty."
-- David W. Moore, The American Record Guide

"...humor and cultural commentary give the music zing..." -- The Oregonian

CD image
cover: © Chris Leck

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[ 1 ]  That Old Song and Dance (1984) LISTEN
      [String Quartet]  
[ 2 ]  Elegy (1989)
      [Solo Cello]  
[ 3 ]  Island Phantasy (1988) LISTEN
      [String Quartet]  
    Hellenic Triptych (1993  
      [Solo Viola & Electronics]  
[ 4 ]     Hera"s Wrath LISTEN
[ 5 ]     Nemesis"s Pleasure LISTEN
[ 6 ]     Echo"s Farewell LISTEN
    Spring Quartet (2004)  
      [String Quartet]  
[ 7 ]     Allegro ritmico LISTEN
[ 8 ]     Allegretto LISTEN
[ 9 ]     Adagio Espressivo ma non troppo LISTEN
[10]     Rondo giocoso - Vivo alla breve LISTEN


photos: © 2004 Chris Leck

Ayako Gamo (vln 2), Erin Furbee (vln 1), Joël Belgique
and Phil Hansen.

( fEARnoMUSIC - Summer 2004 incarnation )

"Portland's venturesome new music ensemble surveys two decades of work by one of the Northwest's finest composers. Anyone who treasures the Japanese impressionism of the late composer Toru Takemitsu will admire the ethereal "Island Phantasy", derived from a folk melody sung during an ancestor worship festival on a Japanese island Gabel visited. "Elegy" for solo cello is a powerful memorial for the composer's father.

In 1993's "Hellenic Triptych" for viola and electroacoustics, the haunting third movement, "Echo's Farewell", which begins in a hesitation dance and then floats away on a modal cloud, is one of the most rapturous musical moments I've heard this year.

The major work is 2004's rhythmically charged "Spring Quartet",the most "classical" sounding piece on the disk. Except for the drifting adagio movement, Gabel's characteristic contemplative passages here give way to a more robust idiom, including a decidedly Coplandish fourth movement. This propulsive style, perhaps influenced by his recent collaborations with choreographer Agneiszka Laska and her dance company, augurs an even brighter future for one of the Northwest's most compelling composers.
-- Brett Campbell (Eugene Weekly)

Program Notes

That Old Song and Dance - 1984

This string quartet -- one movement in classical sonata allegro form -- is, as the title suggests, infused with ancient songs and dances: an untitled 14th century French estampie (originally for positif organ), another estampie from the same period (the famous viol tune Lamento di Tristana) and an Irish Gypsy song Fish and 'Taters.

Elegy - 1989

For solo cello, the work was composed as a paternal memoriam. It incorporates a simple American popular song, the composer writes, "one my father played on a mouth harp to my sisters at bedtime and a well-known symphonic theme which holds a special meaning for me." The score comes with the accompanying poem:

Hands can say a lot,
can speak through simple things:
wood, cotton and cloth
can give a certain comfort.

I can say my dad was a man
who spoke with big hands...
all he took and all he gave
was with big hands.

Island Phantasy - 1988

A suite of reveries and dances -- a tone-poem, fantasy memoir of a summer visit to Sadoh-ga-sheema, a small island in the Sea of Japan. In it are two remarkably different versions of the melody, Sadoh-ohkaysah, widely sung and danced to around the island during the O-bon festival, when most Japanese return to their home towns to honor their ancestors at family burial sites. It is believed that ancestral spirits return as well, and the welcoming festivities are for them too. The single-movement score is in ten sections and includes the following annotations:

Like a flat calm sea,
static but for the occasional ripple
Like the rising of the sun
Like the work of farmers and fisher folk
Like the bustle of a busy shopping street
in late afternoon
Like the setting of the sun
Like an evening breeze
Like a solitary stroller, lost in thought beneath the night sky
Like the gathering of a crowd
Like a festive dance
Like ancestral spirits returning home

Hellenic Triptych - 1993

For solo viola and digital electroacoustics, the work is a dramatic tone-poem on the classical Greek myth of Narcissus -- through the story's supporting personae:
Hera's Wrath
Nemesis' Pleasure
Echo's Farewell

Spring Quartet - 2004

Free of external programmatic intent, vernal affectation in this quartet is simply implied internally through the initial rising line in the melodic theme of each movement. An additional cyclic element figures into the conclusive rondo.
  I.  allegro ritmico
 II.  allegretto
III.  adagio espressivo, ma non troppo
IV.  rondo giocoso, vivo alla breve


   With RACC support and the artistic dedication of Erin Furbee, Ayako Gamo, Joel Belgique and Phil Hansen of fEARnoMUSIC, this collection is finally available.

   Others to credit: Portland State University, where we recorded; Paulo in the Pearl, IFCC and Contemporary Crafts where fEARnoMUSIC gave free concerts while honing the works for the recording sessions; Larry Tyrrell of Moonbridge for technical assistance in mastering; Tessa Brinckman and Tomas Svoboda for tone meistering in session; the ensemble for production assistance in editing; and last but not least, thanks to loving wife and collaborator Agnieszka Laska, who, upon hearing Spring Quartet in creation, insisted that she choreograph and premiere it in her fall '04 concert Songs of Eva, where also, from the stage with Joel Belgique, her dancers wowed an audience that grew with every performance, in a hair-raising Hellenic Triptych -- a work that now appears destined for many more fine performances, to which I'm looking forward -- Jackie T. Gabel

This production is funded in part by the
Regional Arts & Culture Council
Portland, Oregon

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