"New" String Quartets from Bolcom's early years published for the first time

Edward B. Marks Music announces the first publication of String Quartets No. 1-6

This volume of the scores to William Bolcom’s first six string quartets, composed when the composer was from 12-22 years of age, is an exclusive, first-time publication. None of the six quartets have ever been available, but they are now available as separate sets for sale after Bolcom carefully edited his manuscripts. This handsome volume of all six scores also includes an interview with the composer in which he describes the origins and influences of the quartets.

More information


Bolcom Early String Quartets – First Publication!

E. B. Marks Music Company is excited to announce the premiere publication of William Bolcom’s String Quartets Nos. 1 – 6. Rarely in modern music publishing are large scale works by an active, living composer fully edited, engraved, and published prior to their ever being performed. Quartets 1 - 6 are also available as separate collated sets of score and parts. Marks has previously published, in manuscript and on rental, the composer’s String Quartets Nos. 8 – 11.

The early quartets were composed between 1950-1960, when the composer was from 12-22 years old, and thus spanning his most formative years, until the full incubation of his more atonal “Paris style” of the early ’60s. Only two were ever performed.

In the extensive program note-interview which prefaces the separate volume of six study scores, Bolcom reveals his strongest early influences and several amusing anecdotes surrounding their composition and performance (or lack thereof). An excerpt from one of the interviews is below: 


On String Quartet No. 4 

The fourth quartet is certainly the most ambitious of the early quartets. I’m slowly coming out of my Beethoven phase here, but not without saying a fond farewell. Here the influence is the B-flat op. 130 (the version without the Große Fuge which I still feel works better–for once the publisher was right: the Große Fuge is just too unruly to get along with its fellows). Here there is a proper Beethoven-period first movement and other familiar accoutrements, a giant rondo at the end for one. 

I’d always felt it lacked a slow movement, so I added one while studying in Paris in about 1960, right when all around me Boulez and Stockhausen were terrorizing the musical world. I was fascinated by all the brouhaha–almost none of it had percolated to the U.S. by 1959 when I entered the Paris Conservatoire–and I would become very influenced by it (see my earlyFantasy-Sonata for piano, for example) and actually perform both of those terrorists in San Francisco, California in the early 60s on piano, premiering the Boulez Third Sonata about the same time Leonard Stein was doing it in Los Angeles. 

I don’t know exactly why I decided to finish No. 4 at all seeing how the wind was blowing just then, and in such a Beethovenian style, but I did–anything super-iconoclastic wouldn’t fit, I guess. I must say I’d be delighted to hear this one sometime. -- William Bolcom, October 27, 2015