Caroline Mallonée:

Quartet of Songs (2001)

Quartet of Songs was written in 2001 and was premiered by the Ciompi Quartet with soprano Terry Rhodes.

The Ciompi Quartet also presented the piece with soprano Penelope Jensen on their summer chamber music series at Duke University in 2002. 

  1. for string quartet and soprano

  1. duration: approx. 12 minutes

Quartet of Songs

Performed by the Ciompi Quartet

with Penelope Jensen, soprano

Program Note:

Four poems by Carl Sandburg are overlaid onto the traditional forms of a Classical string quartet.  In the first movement, a slow introduction is followed by a lilting theme, which is recapitulated after a contrasting section.  The second song is a slow movement, illustrating the yearning for rain and the ultimate grant of the wish.  “Sleep Impression” takes its form from the minuet and trio tradition: the wind of early autumn runs through the instruments and the voice in the outer sections, and the middle section is in a slower tempo with a reduction of forces.  The finale is at once folk-like and fugal: it is simple vertically, with many parallel fifths and drone effects, while the rhythms in the voice part are imitated in each of the instruments. 


I.  Spring Grass

Spring grass, there is a dance to be danced for you.

Come up, spring grass, if only for young feet.

Come up, spring grass, young feet ask you.

Smell of the young spring grass,

You’re a mascot riding on the wind horses.

You came to my nose and spiffed me.

This is your lucky year.

Young spring grass, just after the winter,

Shoots of the big green whisper of the year,

Come up, if only for young feet.

Come up, young feet ask you.

II.  Summer Grass 

Summer grass aches and whispers.

It wants something; it calls and sings;

it pours out wishes to the overhead stars.

The rain hears; the rain answers; the rain is slow coming; the rain wets the face of the grass.

III.  Sleep Impression

The dark blue wind of early autumn ran on the early autumn sky

in the fields of yellow moon harvest.

   I slept, I almost slept;

   I said, listening:

Trees you have leaves rustling like rain

          when there is no rain.

IV. Haze Gold

Sun, you may send your haze gold

Filling the fall afternoon

With a flimmer of many gold feathers.

Leaves, you may linger in the fall sunset

Like late lingering butterflies before frost.

Treetops, you may sift the sunset cross-lights

Spreading a loose checkerwork of gold and shadow.

Winter comes soon—shall we save this, lay it by,

Keep all we can of these haze gold yellows?

—Carl Sandburg

I. Spring Grass

II. Summer Grass

III. Sleep Impression

IV. Haze Gold