Album Review of
Alabama String Quartets

Written by Joe Ross
March 6, 2021 - 4:24pm EST
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The Amernet String Quartet spent several years working on this 2-CD collection of Alabama String Quartets. The project is presented by the Birmingham Art Music Alliance (BAMA), a non-profit organization that promotes concerts and music by Alabama composers.  Featuring 15 works by a dozen living Alabama composers, we hear various contemporary compositional styles that range from the intellectual to eclectic. Whether buoyant and lyrical or rhythmic and textured, the selections are a pleasant sampler and showcase for these composers.

If we view each piece more as a literary work with motion, activity and story line, one might better relate to Cynthia Miller’s “Bird Quartet” as its three movements evoke a winter landscape with a couple herons, a blossoming spring with birds chirping, and a threatening but fascinating hawk. As another example, Lawren Brianna Ware’s “Ascension for String Quartet” is a tribute to the astronauts who lost their lives in the 1983 space shuttle Challenger accident. Skillful, forward-thing composers find compelling ways to present perceptions of the world. Monroe Golden writes overtone-informed music with mystifying sounds and harmonics in “Twine ‘Mid The Ringlets.” Some pieces are quite impressionistic, such as Michael Coleman’s “String Quartet No. 1” and Holland Hopson’s “Follows From Hummingbirds.” Chris Steele’s “Imagery: Thomas Hardy on Death” is based on Hardy’s poems about death. In some cases, we hear traditional music structures and forms broken up and recast with elements from non-Western music, technology and abstract ideas.  Additional composers featured include Brian Moon, Matthew Scott Phillips, Andrew Raffo Dewar, Tom Reiner, Mark Lackey, and Joel Scott Davis.

Throughout the program, The Amernet String Quartet is direct and polished. Every part is completely clear, with the strings having a cohesive blend of presence and warmth. Consisting of violinists Misha Vitenson and Franz Felkl, violist Michael Klotz and cellist Jason Calloway, the Amernet String Quartet imparts vibrancy and vitality to this chamber music originating in Alabama but surely gaining recognition in a far wider sphere.   (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)