Mathew Fuerst, a student at Juilliard, is influenced by Copland, and, like Copland, he so rigorously controls his material that it never verges on the nostalgic or the sentimental. His Clarinet Quartet, performed at a Juilliard student recital, culminates in a heartfelt eight-note figure that yearns to answer Ives’s “Unanswered Question.” -Alex Ross, The New Yorker
Fuerst’s music stood out for its focus, direct communication, and force. Each of his quartets opens explosively: with hammered, syncopated dissonant chords reminiscent of John Adams’ Harmonielehre in String Quartet No. 1, and a gripping frenzy of rising arpeggios to begin Quartet No. 2. From there, each goes in the same direction, from high dynamics and energy to quieter and sparser music.
The energy of the openings was like an announcement, and the discipline of form and structure that followed was impressive. Fuerst gets a lot out of simple sectional contrasts, and where the First Quartet builds a satisfying form alternating strong and soft music, the Second Quartet does the same, but in a better, more convincing way. Bolder, more confident, more colorful, the internal shape of the Second is also more exciting. After the opening, the music describes a cone, with the small, quiet point at the left expanding to the right into a involving mass of sound and activity.
Fuerst talked about how he used formal restrictions to guide him….The differences in quality between the pieces hinged on forms; Fuerst’s were rigorous and successful. -George Grella, New York Classical Review
Wood closed the evening with Mathew Fuerst’s Sonata No. 3 for violin and piano (2011), with the superb David Riley as his collaborator. Opening with high harmonic tremolos, the first movement is brittle and austere. The legato second movement, “Liebeslied (for Rachel)’, showed off the feathery resonance of Wood’s 1914 Scarampella violin. The finale, marked ‘Moto perpetual’, emphasized the ‘moto’ with aggressive double-stops and frantic bowing, and provoked cheers from the Bargemusic audience. -Bruce Hodges, The Strad Magazine