STRING QUARTET NO. 1 (1973) Op.6 

Opus number: 6

Title: String Quartet No. 1

Instrumentation: two violins, viola, cello

Date written: 1973, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina

Length:  ten minutes

Premiere performance: Juilliard String Quartet, May 4, 1976, Juilliard Theater, New York. Robert Mann, Earl Carlyss, violins, Samuel Rhodes, viola, Joel Krosnick, cello

Important subsequent performances: Juilliard String Quartet, June 1976, Ravinia Festival, Chicago, Illinois; Cavatina String Quartet, April 17, 1980, Paul Hall, Juilliard; Gruppo Musica 900, July 1983, Pontino Festival, San Felice Circeo, Italy

Program notes:  String Quartet No. 1 won first prize at the North Carolina Music Teachers Association, 1973. Written during the last three weeks of July 1973, it was premiered by the Juilliard String Quartet on May 4, 1976, at the Juilliard Theater.

This is a one-movement work, approximately ten minutes in length, and is made up on an introduction, three main sections, and a coda. The unison statement and the short cello solo at the beginning contain the principal thematic ideas that are restated and developed throughout the piece.

The first section is an exposition of the work’s basic character types, while the last two sections are ongoing developmental variations. Just before the coda there is a varied restatement of the introduction. The coda is one large upbeat to a unison that concludes the work.

Reviews: “Bell’s single-movement quartet takes only a little more than 11 minutes to hear, but he covers a remarkably large section of the musical landscape. Like many of his father’s generation, he has taken Mahler and the Schoenberg of  ‘Verklärte Nacht’ as starting points, using the sharp contrasts and unison preferences of the one and the delicately organized musical moods of the other. Unlike many students, he speaks concisely as well as authoritatively. Each of his thematic units possesses the emotional force and precision control of a major talent.” Thomas Willis–The Chicago Tribune (July 1, 1976)

“A Quartet by Larry Bell, a 21-year-old student at New York’s Juilliard School, showed the younger generation heading back toward romanticism. With intensity and pathos, this music sweeps along rather predictably, but nevertheless absorbingly. Bell, a North Carolinian, deserves attention. We’ll be haring more from him.” –Karen Monson, The Chicago Daily News (July 1, 1976)