At the Octoroon Balls: String Quartet No. 1

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Benjamin Ivry
Wynton Marsalis's first string quartet, "At the Octoroon Balls," was inspired by social dances in historic New Orleans, where Creole men chose racially mixed women as their partners. The work is chatty and discursive, using the quartet form as an excuse for lively interchanges, with musical references to Irish jigs, hillbilly music, Mendelssohn's "Octet," and Bach's solo sonatas. It is like an evening at a dance, alternating laid-back moments with more energetic bopping. There are tenderly sentimental tunes, called "Mating Calls," which wax nostalgic for romantic days gone by. "At the Octoroon Balls" is an elegy for Marsalis's grandparents' style of courtship, and its ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Benjamin Ivry
Wynton Marsalis's first string quartet, "At the Octoroon Balls," was inspired by social dances in historic New Orleans, where Creole men chose racially mixed women as their partners. The work is chatty and discursive, using the quartet form as an excuse for lively interchanges, with musical references to Irish jigs, hillbilly music, Mendelssohn's "Octet," and Bach's solo sonatas. It is like an evening at a dance, alternating laid-back moments with more energetic bopping. There are tenderly sentimental tunes, called "Mating Calls," which wax nostalgic for romantic days gone by. "At the Octoroon Balls" is an elegy for Marsalis's grandparents' style of courtship, and its charm is deftly captured by the Orion Quartet. The CD also contains "A Fiddler's Tale Suite," a much-reduced version of his work for narrator and instrumental sextet inspired by Stravinsky's "A Soldier's Tale." In the Stravinsky original, a violin-playing soldier sells his soul to the devil, but Marsalis's story is about a violinist who sells her soul for a musical career. The soloists are all superlative, led by the great bassoonist Milan Turkovic, bassist Edgar Meyer, and percussionist Stefon Harris.
All Music Guide - Richard S. Ginell
Will Wynton Marsalis' omnivorous appetite ever be satisfied? Seemingly enthralled with the string quartets of Béla Bartók, he tries to write one of his own that basically takes off upon Bartók's and America's Charles Ives' own methods of drawing upon vernacular language to create thoroughly contemporary classical music. While Bartók's inspiration was Hungarian folk music, Marsalis, like Ives, seems to draw upon American fiddle tunes and blues. Sounds interesting, but Wynton's reach has again exceeded his grasp over seven, often disjointed movements that stretch some 45 minutes -- a lot longer than Bartók dared go. Wynton employs a lot of slithering portamentos, occasional passages of dissonance in a tonal framework, flinging ideas out there that are not developed or even hammered into a groove. The best movements are the rambunctious fifth, where the nod to Bartók is explicit in its insistent rhythms and glides, and the charming, straight-forward ragtime of the seventh. Though the liner notes are thankfully not by Stanley Crouch, they are of little help in determining the motivations behind the piece, and the Orion String Quartet works hard to pump life into this lofty attempt to jump genres. Classical listeners will make the associations more readily than jazz fans, who will be hard-pressed to relate this to anything Wynton has recorded before 1998. The disc is filled out by Marsalis and musicians from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center playing a suite from Marsalis' "A Fiddler's Tale" -- which is essentially the music stripped of the narration -- and the slithering, subtly swinging metamorphosis of Stravinsky's "L'Histoire du Soldat" holds up a lot better this way. This was the third of Marsalis' eight releases in 1999.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 6/15/1999
  • Label: Sony
  • UPC: 074646097922
  • Catalog Number: 60979

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Wynton Marsalis Primary Artist, Trumpet, Conductor
Edgar Meyer Bass
Ida Kavafian Violin
Tony Phillips Violin
Steven Tenebom Viola
David Shifrin Clarinet
Milan Turkovic Bassoon
Stefon Harris Percussion
Daniel Phillips Violin
Timothy Eddy Cello
Orion String Quartet Ensemble
David Taylor Trombone
Technical Credits
Stanley Crouch Composer
Richard King Engineer
Wynton Marsalis Composer
Eva Reisinger translation
Josee Begaud translation
Josephine di Donato Artwork
Steven Epstein Producer
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