String Quartet

When you talk about women composers of the first half of the 20th century, people like to talk about Ruth Crawford Seeger. She was the first woman to win a Guggenheim Fellowship, and maybe it helps that her work with Alan Lomax makes her name recognizable to a wider audience than many other names you might drop (her folk-famous children don’t hurt the odds either). But while it’s nice she did some groundbreaking in the male composition ghetto, her music requires no platform of sexual politics to heighten its import. Her brief but intense string quartet from 1931 is shown off here in a reading by the ever-engaging Pacifica Quartet. The edgy, aggressive lines of the work’s opening movement give way to quieter strains of introspection before the quartet’s first violinist drives the piece to its jagged, stark conclusion.

—MS