Commission: Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse
Premiere: Chester String Quartet, Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse, NYC, April 11, 1995
Duration: 12 minutes
Instrumentation: String Quartet
I. Blue Ridge, Dappled Sunlight Mountain Waltz
III. Oldtime Fiddles; High, Low, Lower
When I was a resident of Virginia, its traditional folk music, sometimes called oldtime music peaked my interest in using oldtime music as the germ material for the quartet. Without using actual folk tunes, the music grows from my basic impressions and fascination with their flavor. Using as a springboard typical playing techniques, characteristic pentatonic scales, spontaneous rhythms, etc., these motifs are transformed into my own personal expression. Crosswinds is commissioned by New York's Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse.
One day, while admiring the work of American impressionist painter John H. Twachtman, I was struck by the idea of using a background of short daubs of sound in the first movement, Blue Ridges, Dappled Sunlight, Mountain Waltz, similar to the tiny daubs of color which cover his paintings. Through this background, the "picture" of a melancholy waltz (fashioned in the "oldtime" style) could emerge just as the images emerge from the dots in the painting. The beautiful Shenandoah valley landscape became for me the background--the woods with sunlight streaking through the trees on hundreds of leaves covering the ground, the layered meadows, all surrounded by blue ridges--overlaid with an melancholy mood. As the waltz ends, the obscuring wash of tiny dots of sound continues, now with motives from the waltz. Through this is a gradual transformation occurs. The slow movement, Dusk, portrays my reaction to the beauty of the landscape at dusk. The last movement, Oldtime Fiddles: High ,Low, Lower, attempts to capture the flavor and fun of oldtime fast fiddle music, presenting it in different forms of variation, while transforming the ideas into my own style of expression.
"In terms of sheer enjoyment, Margaret Brouwer's "Crosswinds" towered over everything else on the program. The piece is a nostalgic evocation of country landscapes and sounds, replete with open hearted gestures, poetic sighs a la Mahler and hoe-down activity taking Copland to frisky extremes. The score's energy and tenderness were embraced to rapturous degree by the Cavani String Quartet..." - Donald Rosenberg, The Plain Dealer, November 19, 1998
"The string quartet "Crosswinds" filters the landscape and folk music of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains through a compositional voice refreshingly detached from schools and trends. Impressionistically personal and good humored, it shares, with Brouwer's other work from the mid-1990s an invigorating directness." -Julian Cowley, The WIRE, September 1999
"The disc opens with a cross-cultural string quartet ('Crosswinds') in three movements that refers to the atmosphere of Virginia, where the composer has spent time, and evokes country music and scenes of mountain and river. It is a beautiful work, attractive and interesting." - American Record Guide, November/December 1999