Form and Moment: Will Ogdon's String Quartet #3




John MacKay



                        Alternatively titled "String Quartet in Five Movements," Will Ogdon's Third String Quartet stands out among his larger works in its combination of a rich and often aphoristic lyricism with an inventive manipulation of classical twelve-tone thematic process. It consists of either five or three movements (the three-movement form merely leaving off the first and last movements, see Figure 1 below) and projects a unique and finely tuned balance of "momentary" reference within and between movements.


               I                         II                               III                        IV                       V         

            Allegro              1. Cavatina                    Largo                Recitativo         Andantino

                        2. Scherzo

                        3. Cavatina

                        4. Scherzo

                        5. Nocturne

                        6. Poco Scherzano

                        (- Trio - Poco Scherzando)


                                     Figure 1: Formal Scheme of Ogdon's String Quartet #3


                        In addition to the distinct formal impressions of the two versions, there is also the interesting case of its second movement, a six-part, pendular arrangement of lyrical and "scherzo" characters which traces a miniature formal dynamic within the larger scheme. The outer movements, written after the others, pose a further level of autonomy and interaction; the intricately taught and focused sonata design of the first movement recasts, and, in the actual sequence of movements, anticipates, the essential ideas of the other movements, and the closing “andante” summarizes and concludes yet somewhat at a distance. For the present discussion, it will therefore be helpful if “the first will be last” since the loosely serial structure of the work is more transparent in the initially composed sections of the second movement.



Movement II:  Cavatina  Scherzo  Cavatina  Scherzo  Nocturne  Poco Scherzando  (Trio - Poco Scherzando)


                        The individual “movements” of the second movement are essentially all in three-phrase ternary structures in which a closing return or suggestion of opening ideas frames a contrasting or digressive central fragment. Moreover, all ”movements” in Movement II except for the Scherzando/Trio, and indeed all the other movements in the entire quartet, end in a delicately nuanced tremolo sonority which becomes a recurrent fixation throughout the entire piece. The motivic language of the work evolves both concretely and abstractly from the 12-tone premises of the Cavatina/Scherzo alternations where at least two distinct series are projected amid incidental accompanimental/harmonic elements as well as significant and apparently autonomous figures which intervene at various points in the form and underlying narrative.






Example 1: Ogdon Third String Quartet, Second Movement Cavatina 1 mm. 1 – 12




          Thus many elements from the row of the first Cavatina can referential if not thematic (see Example 1): the B-D and E flat-G flat minor thirds, the major/minor triadic combination which they comprise, and also the chromatic tetrad (A flat-G/ A natural B flat) which completes the row and which guides the descending imitations through the cadence on C natural in m. 10.  While the initial pizzicato commentary in the viola and ‘cello in sevenths and momentary sixths (m. 8) provides relatively free harmonic orientation, it also touches upon important ideas such as the A-B dyad in the harmonics of m. 7 which is outside of the 12-tone context created in the violins.[1]


                        The brief “streaming” in thirds/sixths in the central piu animato fragment (mm.10 -13) continues outside of the initial 12-tone orientation but touches upon, as we will see, elements of the 12-tone structures of subsequent sections of the movement in its gentle G flat-A flat oscillation and its p sub. tremolo on D flat-A. In echoes of the minor third elements the melodic contour of mm. 14-18 gracefully reverses the earlier descent of mm. 13-14 via D flat- B flat, in m. 14, A-C in m. 15, A flat-F in m. 17 and the C-E (the major third octave transposed from the cadence of m. 10) to the G flat-E flat and finally the D-B natural which evoke a partial return of the original 12-tone theme.  The closing sonority on E flat, F# and D, sustains these elements (minus the B natural) in the harmonic tremolo the end of the movement.


                        In a natural contrast to the floating delicacy of the "cavatina"s the "scherzi" are witty and clearly phrased.  While the first scherzo begins with the minor thirds of the first cavatina, it immediately forges a new serial structure (see Example 2) as well as significant new associations of concrete pitch elements. Of these the B natural A is repeated in the serial unfolding between the viola and first violin as part of the outlining of the augmented triad A-C#-F, to which the viola responds with the A flat-G flat, completing the series and outlining a further augmented triad (A flat-E-C) in the cadence on C in m. 8 which is punctuated with the conflicting fifths A-E flat/A flat-E flat.  It links via the major/minor triadic structure in the violins (the B flat-D flat/ D natural F) to the central fragment where once again a melodic interval stream (in major seconds/minor sevenths, coloring the F#-E in harmonics) emerges and breaks off again in the pre-emptive major third E-G# in tremolo before the return of ideas from the opening 12-tone structure. The return however is tentative, skipping the opening figure and recalling at first only the second motive (the viola’s D-B natural, B flat -A) and the G flat-A flat, now clearly linked to the F, before regressing to the oscillating minor thirds E-G, E flat-G flat from the close of the first cavatina. The closing motions of the scherzo unfold major/minor triads on B flat and C natural and recall the intrusive E-G# of the central fragment.  The second  fragment of the series echoed between the violins is altered in the first violin, shifting the D natural to E flat and the closing tremolo on E-G-E flat once more reflects the opening tetrad but minus one of the  tones (the C natural in this case).





Example 2: Ogdon Third String Quartet, Second Movement First Scherzo (2) mm. 1-9, Second Scherzo (4) mm.1-6




Example 3: Ogdon Third String Quartet, Mov’t, Cavatina 2, mm. 1 – 7 and  Series with Component Hexachords


                         The series of the second cavatina opening with its chromatic major thirds, D-B=/ A-C# (note with the ensuing F natural which, minus the A natural, forms the major/minor triad) recalls earlier associations from the first scherzo in the A-C#-F augmented triad and the A flat-G flat connection which now separates the minor thirds C-E flat and E-G. In the overall working of the tonal language of the Quartet the series of the second cavatina establishes thematically the two (complementary) hexachords of the B= major/minor triad (B=-D=/D-F) plus A-B natural and the C major/minor triad plus G=-A= (see Example 3). In this respect, it is interesting that the row is altered in its initial presentation, giving a high A natural following the B instead of the C which is confirmed in the subsequent retrograde form; while this may be indicative of Ogdon’s concern for momentary tonal and linear nuance it also witnesses the “intrusive” significance of the A-B element, seen also in the oscillating figure in the ‘cello’s accompaniment (m. 3) at the close of the series and the reordering of tones in the retrograde (m. 5) to present A-B natural in a quick slur and group the F into the B flat major/minor sonority at the first cadence in the violins in m. 6. The intervening fragment again streams intervallically, in major thirds, forming major/minor triadic outlinings in their transient arpeggiations and once more cadencing on the E-G# of the previous scherzo. It is joined here by the ‘cello C# in a momentary but substantial triadic nuance which echoes the independent B-A-B-C# element from the ‘cello in m. 3 (the ‘cellos oscillating motive shifts to D-F-A= in m. 5). Then, mixing seconds and thirds in a suggestion of the middle tones of the scherzo series the interval stream in the violin, with a further interjection of the A-B natural 7th in the ‘cello seems to come to a premature cadential tremolo (E flat, F# F natural) in the upper strings).  The first violin however continues with the series as at the opening (again with A natural instead of C natural) against a further brief tremolo (the G flat/A flat element in the viola and violin, and F natural D in the ‘cello) and a further echoing of the ‘cello’s A-B natural and closing pizzicati against the violin’s tremolo mid-register E natural al niente.


                        The second scherzo provides an essentially free reprise of the first, but uses the retrograde of the row of the second cavatina. The series is somewhat disguised by the occurrence of the E flat and C, series tones 5 and 6, in the pizzicato commentary which is otherwise typically free of serial function in these movements. Similarly the second motive of the first scherzo’s series appears altered, the D-B flat-B natural-A, changed to D flat-B flat-B natural-A and the internal tone repetition within the unfolding series now covering three tones - A-B-C#, completing the series with the harmonic F natural and the pizzicato D natural (and also perhaps the B flat as a repeated tone in the series, see Example 2) once more uncharacteristically from the accompanying pizzicati. The series continues through the cadence again on C (m. 4) slipping its B flat - A natural seventh to an A-B major ninth (m. 6) before liquidating fragmentations  from the current series and, also from the closing development of the first scherzo:  - the derived F-G flat-A flat group, the alternating E=-G= thirds (originally from the first cavatina) and the climactic major third E-G# approached anticipatorily with an ascending tremolo line in the first violin from C natural through ascending major thirds B flat-D (m. 12) and E flat-G (m. 13-14) [2] superimposed on the unfolding of the series from the beginning of the movement in the second violin. The movement closes with the same E-G-E flat tremolo as the first scherzo however against pizzicato B natural-B flats instead of the G sharp B of the first scherzo.





Example 4: Ogdon Third String Quartet, Second Movement Nocturne (5) mm. 1-11


                        The graceful change of pace, in temperament and harmonic texture of the “Nocturne” maintains a lucidly classical phrase structure: its gentle triadic shifts in the upper instruments support the solo 'cello line as it alternates pizzicato and arco motives in a two-measure model, varied (mm. 3-4, see Example 4) and developed imitatively with the viola in the guise of a thematic sentence. The 12-tone structure of the theme and accompaniment is articulated initially (mm. 1-2) according to the four augmented triads which slips in m. 4-7 to more recognizable associations with the 12-tone premises of and “moments” of the second cavatina and scherzo: the  B=-D-D=-A-B grouping in the upper strings in m. 4 (from the opening of the series) the ‘cello’s A-B-B=-D= (m. 5)  and the viola’s A=-G=-E-G (mm. 4-7) and the  C-E= of the series being sustained in the violins (mm. 6-7). The central interval stream (mm. 8-11) similarly paraphrases the cavatina 2 series with the interval stream extension (in thirds/sixths) culminating in the C major/minor sonority of the beginning of the scherzo 1 series and the D flat - A natural now easily identifiable with the scherzo and cavatina 2 series, although as a “moment” it specifically re-interjects the D=-A tremolo from the central fragment of the first cavatina.  The return of the sentence in mm. 12-18 is adjusted to include the E natural in the ‘cello against the C-E= in the violins recalling the C major/minor sonority of mm. 11-12 before melting unexpectedly into the D-C=-D=-F tremolo of the close.


                        In a type of 2-by-2 part invention (see Example 5 below) the "poco scherzando" focuses and expands the harmonic streaming from the previous “central fragments” of the cavatinas, scherzos and the nocturne. Also in a sentence (mm. 1 -8) and short ternary form, a short bridge sets the 'cello, as in the "nocturne" against the upper instruments.  The poco scherzando series is structured in thirds in the violins in mm. 1-4 against its more or less retrograde in the viola and ‘cello.  Note the alteration to major thirds in the reductions of the sentence (A-C# instead of A-C and F-A natural instead of F-A=) and the reassertion of E-C# at the cadence in m.8 against the G-F# which was missing from the near retrograde in the lower strings. The abbreviated return of the sentence in mm. 15-19 reduces the 12-tone structure to superimposed hexachords placing tones 1-6 in the violins and 7-12 in the viola and ‘cello however replacing F-A= in the latter with E=-G and inserting a lengthy and (and as we shall see) significant leading-tone A= to A natural in the in the second violin against the C natural sustained in the first violin.[3]


          The “trio” mixes the dyads of the poco scherzando series with suggestions of the earlier series in free combination and chromatic alteration of elements. In the very large scheme of the entire quartet, the reduction in the nocturne and absence in the poco scherzando of the isolated and closing tremolo sonorities lends a temporary calm and relief from this otherwise subtly ever-present suggestion of luminous tension. The closing sonorities of these sections (sustained in the upper strings against pizzicato punctuations in the ‘cello) are also interesting: a B flat major triad in the trio and A-C#-C>in the poco scherzando.    







Example 5: OgdonThird String Quartet, Second Movement Poco Scherzando (6) mm.1-7, Trio, mm. 20 – 25




Movement III: Largo                                                                                    


                        The 2-by-2-part model of the poco scherzando persists with apparent references to its series in the expansive ABA of the Largo.  Of the two series in parallel sixths which are presented in the violins at the opening (Example 6a) it is the lower one in the second violin which is the more authentic and horizontalizes the C#-E, the A-C and F-A= of the earlier dyadic series in the poco scerzando. The less authentic upper series in the first violin however, presents the referential G-G=-A=-F group (from the cavatina and scherzo series) and similarly the A-C natural (note the decorative leap to the lower F# which substitutes for an out-of-order B natural in the series), the A=-F and the C#(D=) - E natural from the scherzando dyads. The lower series falls structurally into a climbing minor third, a BACH and a diminish-triad-plus-chromatic-neighbor figure. Moreover, every falling or rising minor third in the unfolding of the combined series produces the familiar major/minor triad tetrad and the combined series cadence on the referential E-G# has been foreshadowed repeatedly in tremolo throughout the cavatinas and scherzi of the second movement.


                        The theme of the movement (mm. 1-17) forms a ternary “lied” structure: the bridge fragment (mm 9 - 12) comprising a brief liquidation and contrasting cadential sonority before the return of the thematic series in the violin initiated by “off” tones G (instead of A) in the first violin and F (instead of C#) in the second violin. The theme liquidates (see Example 6b) via a three-eighth-note motive from the contrasting segment, transposing and inverting the final four tones of both series and transforming the earlier E-G# cadences (m. 6 and also 16-17) in the staggered unfoldings of m. 22  (note the distant suggestion of the tremolo color in the ‘cello) and, after a new derivation from the E-C# head of the series, in the pizzicati of m. 25 in which only the G# remains in the sonority.


                        Fracturings, deviations, and progressive liquidations of the series persist a new piu animato and contrapuntally active character in the central section.  It’s focal event however is the return to Tempo 1 at m. 45 with the two series up a tone transposed to  begin on D# and B natural and reference the opening of the series of the first cavatina; note the alterations in the lower series of the E natural to E= in the final four tones (see Example 6c). The subsequent return to the opening materials is eliptic, skipping the “lied” structure return of with a variant of the m. 26 opening of the central section (see Example 6b) and a muted recall of one of the series liquidations of the central section before the intervention of the closing tremoli from the end of the poco scherzando however resting finally on the A=-C instead of the A-C of the earlier moment/movement.




Example 6a, b, c: OgdonThird String Quartet, Third Movement, Largo, mm. 1-6, 18-22, 45-46




Movement IV: "Recitativo"


                        In contrast to the developmental depth of the third movement, the fourth movement "Recitativo" presents one of the most straightforward and transparent formal structure of the quartet; a thematic "lied" alternating wide-ranging lines in the ‘cello and first violin is contrasted with a short and freely structured central section leading to an identical return of the opening "lied" and a brief and fleeting coda into the closing tremolo sonorities recalled from the contrasting section. The prolongation of the slow tempo through this movement and the preceding Largo lends an attendant and suspenseful quality to the music especially in its three-movement form, where there is no closing deliverance from the absorbing focus of the slow tempi.


          The series of this movement give good examples of Ogdon’s adaptation of the twelve-tone row to specific harmonic and thematic contexts.  The opening near- series in the ‘cello (see Example 8[4]) is an inversion of the series in the violin’s melody (mm. 9-16) which is, with minor re-ordering, chromatic adjustments and tone repetitions (B= and E natural are repeated) that of the second cavatina from the second movement. The violin concludes with a seemingly more “authentic” statement of the ‘cello series without repetitions of the A natural and a substitution of B= for the repeating B natural at the end of the series; it too however, inserts a repetitive G natural in stepwise motion between F and A; it is directed back to the B= of the descending minor third D=-B=, unfolding the referential major/minor triad with the D natural-F in the viola with the return of the ‘cello segment. Unlike it’s original appearance, the return of the ‘cello series is a complete form, substituting a B= for the second A natural and, again presenting the first eight tones but closing on G natural instead of the earlier A=. The slow and delicate chordal accompaniment provides 12-tone complements to the hexachordal structure of the ‘cello and violin solos. The two accompanimental segments are connected: the ten-chord sequence in accompaniment to the violin begins with the fifth, sixth, fifth (repeated), seventh, and eighth (final) chords of the chordal sequence accompanying the ‘cello.


           The central section, as in the Largo, pursues fragmentations from both the ‘cello and violin recitatives (see Example 7c) projecting momentary stratified tonal implications amid the return of pizzicato and tremolo colors and the new harmonic element of perfect fifth sonorities.  The section culminates on a compound tremolo sonority D-A/E=-B=-F of chromatic but fifth-related components against a pizzicato






Example 7a, b, c: OgdonThird String Quartet, Fourth Movement, Recitative mm. 1 - 16, “fragments” from central section, ending mm. 57-62


recall of the opening of the ‘cello melody culminating on B. The return of the opening alternation of accompanied ‘cello and violin recitatives is without significant alteration however the tremolo coloration intervenes suggestively at the close of the violin melody.  The coda begins fleetingly with a pp recall of the beginning of the retrograde of the second cavatina series in imitation between the first violin and viola, quickly diffusing however to a closing sequence of tremolo sonorities: the A=-C major third from the close of the Largo plus B natural (m. 57) the opening tone of the imitative fragment (instead of E natural of the cavatina retrograde).  The closing sonorities (Example 7c) recall with semitone shifts (the D-A to C#-G#, and E=-B= to E>-B>) from the fifths of the central section against closing streams in major thirds suggestive of the beginning of the series.  The emergence of the fifths at the close of this movement is significant, particularly in the 3-movement form of the work, as a final shift in the prevalent harmonic color of the work dominated by chromatic relationships of thirds and sixths.



Movement V: "Andantino"


                        The final "Andantino" holds the ultimate steps of the ongoing play of the tonal and textural motives. For this reason, its form may be more open since it involves ideas which by now are familiar and require no introduction.  In any case, its opening theme (see Example 8a) is complex and continues the violin/’cello dualities of the “Recitativo” although now in simultaneous, as opposed to alternating lines. The Andantino begins, in fact, with an indirect reference to the preceding movement - the descending line in the violin F-D-D=-B=-A-E= outlines the opening accompanying sonority of the “Recitativo” (see Example 7a) but proceeds directly to an unfolding of the cavatina 1 series between the violin l and the inner voices.  The ‘cello line however, which eventually assumes greater motivic independence could be taken to define more consistently an opening model/repetition format in mm.1-12. The sense of developmental reduction and cadence however in mm. 12 - 19 is clear in its significant focus on the tremolo now as a thematic as opposed to coloristic element. Note also the repeated cadencing on B= elements in the tremolo sonorities in m. 12 (in response to the earlier rallentando on B-A natural in m. 10) and 19.


                        The liquidation of the opening structure is to the tremolo chord stream of mm. 23 - 26 (see Example 8b) at which point the opening structure returns (mm. 27 - 35) in an altered form beginning with a rising arpeggiation in the ‘cello (as opposed to the descending figure in the violin) and restricting the model plus repetition, to the unfolding of the tones of the first cavatina series - the ‘cello taking the violin’s opening B-D/C-D= plus G (instead of E) with the last two tones now in tremolo. The reductions are recessive rather than cumulative as in the opening and they juxtapose significant elements from the first scherzo series: the C major/minor triad in rising pizzicato arpeggiations (a liquidation of the ascending arco sixteenths in the ‘cello from the opening of this presentation of the theme) with successive glissandi from the G up to F# and G# against  the B= major/minor sonority unfolded downwards in the violins to a tremolo A/B natural upper mid-register tremolo.[5] The reduction/liquidation is complete as the latter tremolo second shifts to F#-G# in the viola/’cello again the B= minor/major plus A-B natural elements unfold in the violins in ascending pizzicatti and sustained tremoli.







Example 8a: Ogdon Third String Quartet, Fifth Movement, mm. 1-19




                                                          Example 8b, c, d: Ogdon Third String Quartet, Fifth Movement, mm. 23 - 26,36 - 40, 63 - 67.


                        The essential linear and harmonic coherence of the final passages (mm. 36 - 67) continues in the specific series elements in combination with generally third-based structurings such as the major/minor sonority, the “contained” major minor third trichords (014) of the tremolo/pizzicato sonorities, chromatic minor and major thirds, augmented and diminished triads, the seventh chord groupings (as in the tremolo stream in mm. 23-26, see Example 8 b) as well as simple doublings of referential elements in sixth or thirds. The coda in m. 35-36 begins with a model Example 8c) which introduces these tendencies (note the interval patterns plotted below the example, the latter interval group consisting of a diminished triad within a perfect fifth is also earlier found in the last four tones of the Largo series) and which is loosely imitated in its registral contours and cadential tremolo/pizzicato rallentandi throughout the remainder of the movement. Significant of the movement’s direction towards new vistas, the final swells (Example 8d) are to a brilliant and spacious harmonic orientation on G.





Movement I Allegro


                        To this point a great variety of relationships to the series have been noted throughout the Quartet, from fairly strict adherence to 12-tone principles, with extra-serial accompanimental nuances, in thematic expositions, to shifts of particular tones in particular contexts, the suspension of the twelve-tone context, (often with a temporary focus on particular series elements), the  “intrusion” of series or fragments of series from one section into the context of another, and the isolation of series elements or even just key series intervals with free/harmonic intervallic support such as the “streaming” of thirds or sevenths at various points or the ubiquitous major seventh with inscribed minor third (0,1,4) trichords. All of these however are organized in a finely tuned and logical adherence to classical principles of tonal form: the use of the series to structure thematic statements and the subsequent fracturing or departure from the series, substitution of extraneous series or other forms of intervention to structure liquidations or developmental/contrasting passages, retransitions etc.  In the case of the opening Allegro however, where the series is minimally present and many key tonal elements in the movements to follow are only suggested in passing, the influence of thematic form and process are most pervasive and highly developed.


                         The formal scheme of the movement is given in Figure 1 and the initial sentence structure plus the short bridge can be seen in Example 9.  Correctly speaking, the actual opening thematic structure would be a short ternary as the sentence returns in abbreviated form (mm. 16-22) followed by a quick liquidation/transition (mm. 23-27) to a secondary idea and central development (m. 28 onwards).


                        A number of features emerge in these opening statements which are clearly integral to the remaining movements of the quartet. Perhaps foremost is the role of the tremolo as a punctuating and cadential device in mm. 5 and 12-13.  The major thirds E-G# of m. 11 and B-D# of m. 12 are clearly exposed as points of reference; they are repeated in the abbreviated return of the sentence at the end of the movement but they are significantly replaced by the ascending third B-D in m. 22 and the end of the short ternary structure. The motivic structure of mm. 2-4 delineates the first six tones of the retrograde of the cavatina series in the first violin (E-G-G=-A=-C-E=, also, of course, the first six tones of the second scherzo series) as well as the minor third cell, B=-D=, which pervades the bridge in coincidence with the B-D natural. In the shifting motivic focus of the movement is in many instances flexibly accommodated by aggregate formations (indicated by -----12-----) which provide a fully chromatic background without the structuring of a specific series (see mm. 5-6, 9, 10, 11, 12 as in Example 9a and mm. 29-30 in Example 9b).  The opening motive of the central section (see Example 9b) focuses further on the first four tones of cavatina 1 series fragment but adds F and A natural to fill out a chromatic hexachord, which with the complementary chromatic hexachord fills provides one of the building block of the central development.


                        The central section initially explores a mixture of foreshadowings with ideas derived from the chromatic hexachords structures of the secondary idea (marked “ch.hex/E-A” and “ch.hex/B=-E=). The reduction in Figure 2 delineates the registral exchanges of materials as well the textural developments involving the arco, pizzicato and tremolo sounds qualities.  The first of the 12-tone sign posts to emerge are the C major/minor triad unfolded in tremolo against the chromatic motion surrounding the G=-A= major second at m. 42.  The referential minor thirds B=-D= and B-D of the bridge passage emerge in close conflict at m. 47 (note that these four tones belong exclusively to the B=-E= chromatic hexcachord).  The return in m. 51 of the tremolo ideas of m. 43 more clearly reference the

opening series hexachord  (A=-G=-G-E - note also that  this  figure lies exclusively within the E-A chromatic hexachord) against a high- and extreme-high-register repeated F-A natural pizzicato tenth, which anticipates the extreme-high-register A natural of the culmination of the retransition in m. 61 where the opening tremolo sonority of the movement (B=-G=-A) returns transposed up an octave. Further intricate echoings of the B=-D=/ B-D opposition arise however, prior to this point in m. 59 and at m. 55-56 where the ‘cello  interjects the same A-B oscillation as it does in the second cavatina.




Example 9: Ogdon Third String Quartet, First Movement mm. 1 - 16



Figure 1: Formal Structure of First Movement



Example 9b: Ogdon Third String Quartet, First Movement mm. 28 – 32



                        The muted coda (mm. 70 -75) follows directly as in m. 17, from the repetition of the bridge and beginning of the return of the sentence in the pizzicato E=-B-D sonority (see m. 16, note the D natural is not present in the opening pizzicato) which is repeated in alternation with its lower whole-tone neighbor (C#-A-C natural) against a sustained tremolo A= in the viola joined by the ‘cello in its descending glissando from E to F in a major/minor third shift suggestive of the A-C to A=-C at the end of the poco scherzandos and the Largo.  Meanwhile the upper tones of the D#-B-D pizzicatti delicately foreshadow opening of the series in the following cavatina.





                        The richness and flexibility of Ogdon’s Third Quartet appears to find  middle ground between serial structure and tonal intuition and between Second Viennese/classical form and phraseology and more recently evolved effects of dissociation and momentary reference within and across movements. Certain harmonic elements acquire referential significance over the entire work such as the major/minor triads on B, C and B= each of which is linked to 12-tone structures in the first cavatina, first scherzo and second cavatina. Elements such as the E-G# and A-C# (in the cavatinas and scherzi) and perhaps even the A=-C natural (in the poco scherzando and Largo), seem to arise as part of a tonal play from outside the series. A veiled arch form accrual of recall begins in the Largo which begins significantly with the A-C# element and reiterates cadences on G#-E, and which, at its point of structural




Figure 2: Harmonic/Textural Reduction of Ogdon Third String Quartet, First Movement mm. 33 – 60. Pizzicato indicated in staccato. “ch.hex/E-A refers

to the pitches (E,F,F#,G,G#,A) in the chromatic hexachord from E to A and “ch.hex/ Bb-Eb” to those in chromatic hexachord from Bb to Eb.

retransition, recalls the B major/minor nuances from the first cavatina and, at the end of the movement, which recalls of the cadence of the poco scherzando. After the distinct series of the Largo and the transformations of the series in the Recitative of the second cavatina, the fifth movement similarly recalls the series of the first cavatina. Interestingly the endings of the Recitativo and Andantino respectively in fifths and in a different harmonic orientation suggest movements away from the tonal world established in the other movements. In any case, the movements are all linked by their endings in cadential tremolo sonorities and pizzicato punctuations. Figure 3 presents the tonal scheme for the final sonorities of all the movements:


mov't                                        trem.                             pizz.


I  Allegro                                    F-A=                           C#-A-C> to 

                                                                                                            D#-B-D *


                          Cavatina I                                 F#-D-F>to                   D=C to B=-A to

                                                                          E=-F#-D                     A=-G to E-E      *

                          Scherzo I                                  E-G-E=                       G#-B                 *


                          Cavatina II                                 E                                B-B=-A


                          Scherzo II                                  E-G-E=             B-B=                *


                          Nocturne                                   D-C=-D=-F                            

  Scherzando  (non trem.)             A=-C to A-C-C#           D-G=-E=          *

                          Trio              (non trem.)             F-B=-D                       E G F#            

                          Scherzando   (non trem.)            C#-A-C                        D-G=-E=         *


                       III  Largo                                       (A>) A=-C                    A=-G              *


                       IV  Recitativo                                C#-G# 



                       V Andantino                                  F-A-B to G=-A-F          G-B-D-F#        *



Figure 3: Closing Pizzicato and Tremolo Sonority Pitches in Each Movement of the Third Quartet

* indicates tremolo or pizzicato pitches are also the initial pitches of the movement


                        Beyond the endings of the movements, the game of reference and development of the arco, pizzicato and tremolo sonority is active throughout the quartet with a significant absence in the poco scherzando and trio sections of the second movement and the opening section of the Largo. Whatever cumulative or isolated significance is to be found in the play of these sonority elements throughout the work, is effectively culminated in the fifth movement in the sustained liquidation of the opening thematic structure in mm. 23-26.


                      To finally conclude, it can be observed that the musical language of Will Ogdon’s Third Quartet exemplifies the astute patience of many of adherents of the influence of Leibowtiz, Krenek. and of course, Schoenberg himself.  The conception of the series primarily as a thematic entity within the discourse of classical phraseology and thematic process is a virtual hallmark of Leibowitz’s teachings [6] and a concern, which Ogdon has shared in his own teachings - not necessarily or even primarily for the music of the past, but for issues of tonal intelligibility in its endless guises and applications.  And while this discussion has taken pains to illustrate what might be considered a Mozartean thematic elegance, with a Webernian timbral/harmonic and dynamic sensitivity and even a Beethovenesque sense of interruption, the “personality” of Ogdon’s music, like that of any of its models, runs clearly much deeper than this and in its own unique direction.



[1]  Note however that this element, the A-B figures clearly in the twelve tone and extra-twelve tone structurings of the following Scherzi and the Cavatina 2.

[2]  This contrasts with the parallel development to the E-G# in the first Scherzo of a descending line and skip.

            [3]  In the present context this nuance playfully in the trio (m.30) in a momentary A=-C/B=D whole tone alternation in the violins.

            [4]  The series lacks B= but has, interestingly, two A naturals and two B naturals, the second of which projects the referential B-D at the end of the phrase. The framing repetition of the series is incomplete, leaving off after F natural and closing by repeating A=. Note also that the relation between the violin melody in mm. 9-16 and the series of the second cavatina, the second B= must, in terms of the series, be an altered B natural.  The placement of B natural at the end of the initial 12-tone unfolding of the violin melody of the Recitative projects a clear E minor harmonic nuance against the accompaniment at this point.

            [5] Note that these elements, the major/minor triads on B=and C plus the major seconds F#/G# and A/B, in addition to any suggestion of the work’s various series, fill out the complete chromatic aggregate in themselves.

[6] See, for example Leibowitz’s unpublished “Treatise of Twelve-Tone Composition” as discussed by the present author  in VIII/2 of this journal.  It is also interesting to note, despite Pierre Boulez’s freer phrase structurings in the early sonatas  for piano and the Sonatine, a similar concern for aggregate completion and series integrity with relation to thematic process and function.  See  S. Chang: “Boulez's "Sonatine" and the Genesis of his Twelve-Tone Practice” (Ann Arbor, 1998).