Inspired by a mural by John LaFarge and premiered by FLUX Quartet, String Quartet No. 2: Intimations and Incarnations was composed for a specific moment in a theatrical concert called Beyond Words.

The concert took place in 2001 at the Church of the Ascension in New York City. The concert realized Theodore Wiprud’s vision of a sacred music without text, and argued for the resurgence of such music among a wide variety of living composers.


for string quartet / 15 min.
In two movements, played without hesitation
I. Intimations / II. Incarnations

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Beyond Words Theodore Wiprud

Program Note

Intimations: a sensation of the infinite; longing, sweet and strong; symbols pointing but not revealing.

Incarnations: direct experience of the infinite; a surge of love, testing human endurance; the spirit in the flesh, here and now.

The reredos at the Church of the Ascension in New York City, with its haunting mural by John LaFarge, stunning framing by Stanford White, and sculptural angels by Saint-Gaudens, inspires the two-movement String Quartet No. 2: Intimations and Incarnations. The lower half of the reredos underlies the first movement: the tracery in the mosaic around the altar is in the opening violin vocalise; the rapt reverence of the angels is in the ascending hymn of yearning. The upper half of the reredos, the mural itself, inspires the second movement. Christ’s bodily Ascension underlines his Incarnation, the unity of flesh and spirit. Alan Watts writes in Behold the Spirit, “. . . the Incarnation occurs not only at a distance of two thousand years in Palestine, but within all human beings, past, present, and future. Whenever and wherever men have known or glimpsed the gift of union with God, the power of the incarnation has been at work.” The experience can terrify as much as it can transform.

—Theodore Wiprud

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