Quartet for Two Violins, Viola, and ‘Cello Right Hand

Dedicated to Billie C. Nelson – for Mother’s Day.

The Story

My Mom (‘cello) and I (viola) have been playing together for nearly 40 years in hundreds, if not thousands of various get-togethers of all shapes and sizes. So naturally I was concerned when I heard she had fallen and hurt left arm (the one that does the fingering). It was so bad that she couldn’t lift it at all.

I had recently been writing a lot of musical theater music in the pop-music genre, and it made me realize that I could make some pretty fun grooves on ‘cello with only open strings. And so, for Mother’s day, I went ahead and wrote a string quartet.

I’ve played this string quartet with my Mom and her group and it works very well for amateurs. It’s also great for anyone with good musical sense who would like to try the ‘cello. Note that the ‘cello part is no pushover, it requires a strong sense of rhythm.

(PS: Mom’s arm is much better and she’s playing just as well as before.)


  • First (MP3 – 4′ 01″)
  • Second (MP3 – 2′ 03″)
  • Third (MP3 – 5′ 58″)

The Peabody Pick-Up Conductor’s Quartet:

Joshua Hong – Violin 1
Gabriel Meza – Violin 2
Eric D’Alessandro – Viola
Thomas Fortner – ‘Cello Right Hand

Parts and Score

Performance Notes:  Viola, 3rd Movement, Measures 6-10: Take down an octave.

Original MIDI-Piano Recording

When I first composed the piece, all I had was a MIDI-piano version of the recording (the string-quartet version didn’t happen until much later), and Mom listened to it over and over and fell in love with it.

And so, when I actually was able to marshal a string quartet to play it as written (which I presented to her for her 90th birthday), Mom was surprised at how different it sounded! “It’s like an entirely different piece!” she said, admitting that she now listens to both versions over and over.

And so here is my original MIDI-Piano recording.

  • First (MP3 – 3′ 49″)
  • Second (MP3 – 1′ 53″)
  • Third (MP3 – 5′ 55″)