String Quartet #2 "Bucephalus"

I. Bucephalus
II. Around To The Sun
III. Alexandrine
IV. At Jhelum
V. The New Advocate

String Quartet #2 "Bucephalus" (1983-84), commissioned by the Alexander String Quartet with support of Chamber Music America and the Connecticut Commission for the Arts, String Quartet #2 was written in honor of György Ligeti's 60th birthday.

The titles of the five movements were drawn from a number of events, real or imaginary, in the lives of Alexander the Great and his war horse Bucephalus. The concluding movement "The New Advocate" is based on a Kafka short story. Kafka imagined Bucephalus today in the quiet lamplight of law school.

from A Country Doctor, Franz Kafka:

We have a new advocate, Dr. Bucephalus. There is little in his appearance to remind you that he was once Alexander of Macedon's battle charger. Of course, if you know his story, you are aware of something. . . even a simple usher who I saw the other day on the front steps of the Law Courts... was running an admiring eye over the advocate as he mounted the marble steps with a high action that made them ring beneath his feet.

In general the Bar approves the admission of Bucephalus. With astonishing insight people tell themselves that, modern society being what it is, Bucephalus is in a diffiuclt position, and therefore, considering also his importance in the history of the world, he deserves at least a friendly reception. Nowadays - it cannot be denied - there is no Alexander the Great. There are plenty of men who know how to murder people; the skill needed to reach over a banqueting table and pink a friend with a lance is not lacking; . . but no one, no one at all, can blaze a trail to India. Even in his day the gates of India were beyond reach. . .

So perhaps it is really best to do as Bucephalus has done and absorb oneself in law books. In the quiet lamplight, his flanks unhampered by the thighs of a rider, free and far from the clamor of battle, he reads and turns the pages of our ancient tomes.

Every page a victory
Who cooked the feast for the victors?
Every ten years a great man.
Who paid the bill?

So many reports.
So many questions .

from "Questions from a Worker Who Reads" by Bertold Brecht

Recorded on CRI CD 682 Martin Bresnick, Music for Strings.