String Quartet (from Pivotal Arc)

Commissioned by the Molinari String Quartet and Nathalie Bonin through the generous support of The Canada Council for the Arts 

First perfomance on November 24, 2018 by the Molinari String Quartet at Salle Gesù, Montreal, Canada

Duration is approximately 16 minutes

Recorded and released on Pivotal Arc (Whirlwind Recordings, 2020) by the Molinari String Quartet (Olga Ranzenhofer, Antoine Bareil, Frédéric Lambert, Pierre-Alain Bouvrette)

Commissioned by the Molinari String Quartet, through the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the String Quartet was initially conceived as a work to be performed alongside Nachoff’s Violin Concerto (2018). Each of the four movements is a miniature concerto for each member of the quartet. The first movement features Violin II, the probing second movement showcases the Viola, the vacillating third movement is for the Cello and the intense final movement is for Violin I. It represents some of Nachoff’s most intricate writing to date, allowing him to explore his deep attachment to the tradition and his engagement with contemporary iterations.

With a strong sense of rhythmic vitality, subtle and tangential jazz influences permeate the work. The pizzicato solo cello in the third movement is reminiscent of an improvised bass solo. Interlocking rhythmic figures in the fourth movement at times bring to mind the counterpoint of a drumset. Quarter tones are woven into the melodic vocabulary of the work as a means of expression and dimensional shifting and at numerous times overtones and glissandi are used to generate textures that lean towards electronica. The theme of the individual and their relationship and responsibilities to the group are explored in different ways in each movement.

String Quartet was premiered in 2018 at Salle Gesù, Montréal, by the Molinari String Quartet and can be heard on Pivotal Arc (2020) on Whirlwind Recordings.

Pivotal Arc (2020)

Nathalie Bonin – violin soloist / violoniste soliste

Molinari String Quartet / Quatuor Molinari
Olga Ranzenhofer – violin I / 1er violon
Antoine Bareil – violin II / 2e violon
Frédéric Lambert – viola / alto
Pierre-Alain Bouvrette – cello / violoncelle

JC Sanford – conductor / chef d’orchestre
Michael Davidson – vibraphone / vibraphone
Mark Helias – bass / basse
Satoshi Takeishi – drums, percussion / batterie, percussions
Quinsin Nachoff – tenor saxophone / saxophone ténor


Jean-Pierre Zanella – piccolo, flute, clarinet, soprano sax / piccolo, flûte, clarinette, saxophone soprano
Yvan Belleau – clarinet, tenor sax / clarinette, saxophone ténor
Brent Besner – bass clarinet / clarinette basse

Jocelyn Couture – trumpet 1 / 1ère trompette
Bill Mahar – trumpet 2 / 2e trompette
David Grott – trombone / trombone
Bob Ellis – bass trombone / trombone basse

The many diverse threads of Nachoff’s career are triumphantly woven together in this stunning, ambitious realization. ‘Pivotal Arc’ brings together virtuoso violin soloist Nathalie Bonin with a jazz-inflected unit comprising two established giants of the NY scene, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Satoshi Takeishi, and the striking young vibraphone player Michael Davidson, and a wind and string ensemble conducted by JC Sanford for a concerto that boldly mixes written and improvised sections. A contemporary string quartet performed by the renowned Molinari String Quartet and the extended title piece round out the album. Consistently unpredictable, fearlessly innovative, breathtakingly accomplished, and full of creative passion, Nachoff’s work as composer and improviser is constantly increasing its scope to encompass ever greater horizons.

"It's part jazz, part classical, and impressive from beginning to end...This is a seriously ambitious record."

Phil Freeman


"...the variety in the textures, shaped by an engagingly complex musical mind, a sensibility that guarantees the progress of each movement will contain a series of delights and surprises. It's demanding contemporary music that succeeds at the trick of pulling you in - and makes you glad to be there."

Michael Ullman

The Arts Fuse

"The overall impact of the album is to confirm that specific definitions are pointless. This is simply good music that for cenvenience is listed in the jazz category."

★★★★ ½

Keith Black

Winnipeg Free Press

As an album, 'Pivotal Arc' serves to show the world the versatility and maturity of the composer Quinsin Nachoff...There's a lot happening in this music and you really want to pay close attention to hear the richness of the melodies, the excellent musicianship, and the powerful work of violinist Nathalie Bonin. One of this year's more fascinating releases, 'Pivotal Arc' is worth your time."

Richard B. Kamins

Step Tempest

"...this melding of classical influences and jazz verities is also unexpectedly accessible, consistently lively, fiercely intelligent and often flat-out exhilarating."

Michael Roberts


"The music on 'Pivotal Arc' is both challenging and highly engaging. Few clichés can be found in the music composed by a mind that continues to stretch beyond the comfort zone of any genre. There's something strikingly inventive and vivid about Nachoff's music."


Friedrich Kunzmann


"...a creative immediacy that marks it as something new...What startles then pleases is the breadth of absorption of multi-stylistic strands into a convincing series of wholes. There is a fully 'authentic' and uncompromising nexus of both styles and performances are top notch. And the end results are fully original and well worth repeated hearings."

Grego Applegate Edwards

Classical Modern Music

"Composer and saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff has been merging formal composition and an expansive jazz vocabulary since conjoining a string quartet and a jazz group on his 2006 debut 'Magic Numbers'. However, the blurring of traditionally distinct musical categories has reached its high point in the three compositions heard on 'Pivotal Arc'."

Stuart Broomer


"'Pivotal Arc' is largely an extraordinary accomplishment...Nachoff's pieces are well-crafted, imaginative, questioning, and splendidly performed."
"A protracted solo by vibraphonist Michael Davidson and the consistently brilliant figures by Bonin literally made me holler in joy while listening."
"Nachoff's String Quartet alone is worth the purchase of the entire disc and I would be eager to hear a follow-up work for the same ensemble."

Alan Thiesen

Sybaritic Singer

"With a sonic palette that ranges across the spectrum from Strayhorn and Mancini to Bartok and Berg, this is a stunningly original set of pieces that will cement Nachoff's reputation as a major cross-genre musical force."

Jim Hynes

Making a Scene

"A real tour de force for the brilliant violinist Nathalie Bonin."

Yves Dorison

Culture Jazz (France)

"[Pivotal Arc] combines colorful ensemble writing with a crisply defined sense of rhythmic buildup."

J.D. Considine


"A real tour de force for the brilliant violinist Nathalie Bonin...thanks to a great versatility, [Bonin] engages with a transport and a skill that allow her to trace in an apparently light way the intricate plots of the concerto"

Filippo Focosi


<<What a Performance Winner 2020>>

"I cannot praise this album highly enough...The Molinari String Quartet is an outstanding group of highly-trained musicians who capture the flavor of the music..."

Lynn René Bayley

Art Music Lounge

"On this album, contemporary classical and avant-garde jazz meet and interbreed into a powerful combination of the best of both worlds."

Dave Tremblay

Can This Even Be Called Music

"The album opens with a violin concerto featuring...violinist Nathalie Bonin as lead soloist, delivering a breathtaking performance. She traverses the three movements of this work with impressive aplomb and creativity..."
"A superb solo by Helias opens the title track, a piece closer to jazz that offers a splendid conclusion to the album. Takeishi and...vibraphonist Michael Davidson are particularly imaginative."

Steve Naud


"'Pivotal Arc' of the best modern classical works I've heard in a long while."

Bruce Lee Gallanter

Downtown Music Gallery

CBC Music Summer 2020 Guide - Albums You Need to Hear

Robert Rowat

CBC Music

Pivotal Arc Videos

About the project and teasers

Pivotal Arc Mini-interview Series

Short interviews with each member of the ensemble

#17  Nathalie Bonin, violin soloist
& Quinsin Nachoff, composer, tenor saxophone, producer
#1  Mark Helias, bass
#2  Antoine Bareil, violin II, Molinari String Quartet
#3  Olga Ranzenhofer, violin I, Molinari String Quartet
#4  Satoshi Takeishi, drums
#5  JC Sanford, conductor
#6  Frédéric Lambert, viola, Molinari String Quartet
#7  Michael Davidson, vibraphone
#8  Pierre-Alain Bouvrette, cello, Molinari String Quartet
#9  Yvan Belleau, woodwinds II
#10  Bill Mahar, trumpet II
#11  Jean-Pierre Zanella, woodwinds I
#12  David Grott, trombone
#13  Brent Besner, bass clarinet
#14  Bob Ellis, bass trombone
#15  Jocelyn Couture, trumpet I
#16  David Travers-Smith, audio engineer, producer

This project was made possible through the generous support of The Canada Council for the Arts

The photograph used in this video is part of ‘Touch Base, arctic solargraphy’ a global collaboration between visual artist Udo Prinsen and approximately 25 scientists working at field research locations on, around and above the Arctic Circle. They helped capture the mystique of the environment with pinhole cameras on long-exposures.
Qikiqtaruk (Herschel Island, Yukon, Canada)
In collaboration with Dr. George Tanski

Le photographe utilise dans ce video font partie de ‘Touch Base, arctic solargraphy’ une collaboration mondiale entre l’artiste visuel Udo Prinsen et environ 25 scientifiques travaillant sur le terrain, sur le cercle arctique et autour et au-dessus de cercle arctique. Ils ont aidé à capturer la mystique de l’environnement avec des appareils photo à sténopé lors de longues expositions.
Qikiqtaruk (île Herschel, Yukon, Canada)
En collaboration avec le Dr George Tanski

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