String Quartet No. 17

(2007)

by Peter Sculthorpe

Description
string quartet
Duration
19
Genres
String Quartet
Commission
Commissioned by Ken Tribe through Musica Viva Australia
First Performance
29.11.2007, Huntington Festival: Goldner Quartet
Availability

Score and parts on special sale from the Hire Library

Programme Notes
String Quartet No.17 was commissioned by Ken Tribe, through Musica Viva, especially for the Goldner Quartet. Ken and his wife, Joan, have been friends of mine for more than forty years. This work, then, sings of love and friendship. Furthermore, it is based almost entirely upon the motto-theme from Beethoven’s seventeenth quartet. The theme bears the enigmatic words Müss es sein?’ ‘Must it be?’ ‘Es müss sein! Es müss sein!’ ‘It must be! It must be!’ The music of my quartet takes the form of three songs framed by a Prelude and a Cadenza, and a Postlude. The movements are: Prelude and Cadenza; A Song of Assurance; A Song of Deliverance; A Love Song and Postlude. The short Prelude presents the Beethoven motto-theme and the Cadenza, for cello, consists of variations upon it, with the viola adding references to its first part. A Song of Assurance is based upon the second part of the motto. This movement is a wordless setting of the Shelley poem To-. Beginning with the lines ‘Music when soft voices die, Vibrates in the memory…’ it contains comforting thoughts on the everlasting nature of the senses and, above all, of love. Captain Cook made landfall in Australia in 1770, the year of Beethoven’s birth. In 1970, I wrote a work called Love 200 for rock band and orchestra, with words by Tony Morphett. It concerns Cook’s journey along Australia’s eastern shores. Boat Rise, one of the songs in the work, tells of the wreck of his vessel on the Great Barrier Reef and its salvaging, through love and Christian zeal, by the crew. Its point of departure is the first part of the Beethoven theme. I based A Song of Deliverance upon it. It was inevitable that this string quartet should contain a movement called A Love Song. Consisting of variations upon A Song of Assurance, this movement, with the two violins singing in octaves in its second section, is the very heart of the quartet. The Postlude is based upon both parts of the Beethoven theme, bringing together material contained in the whole work. Parts of it, like the third movement, also pay homage to Bach, one of my favourite European composers. Peter Sculthorpe

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