String Quartet No 3

(1995)

by Jonathan Harvey

Description
string quartet
Duration
16
Genres
String Quartet
Commission
Commissioned by the BBC
First Performance
23.1.96, BBC Pebble Mill, Birmingham: Arditti String Quartet
Availability

A4 facsimile score (fp) 0-571-55466-0 and parts (fp) 0-571-55467-9 on sale

Programme Notes
In Quartet no. 3 there is a dialectic between a surface texture which is fleeting and fragmented and an underlying structure which is very strictly repetitive. A number of ‘themes’ (ten, or twenty when they combine to make ‘doubles’) are constantly juxtaposed in different ways; they are only developed at a few special moments. But each of theses ‘themes’ is somewhat insubstantial. It is as if the normal solid string tone is put under a microscope, or a solid beam of light is diffracted by a prism and scattered. Often the material moves into the borderlands of silence, only half-heard. There are themes, for instance, on bounced bow glissandi, harmonic trills, ‘col legno battuto’ and (the nearest to solid pitch) and octave G constantly inflected with microtones, this latter theme deriving from an improvisation I recorded with the cellist Francis-Marie Uitti on the CD ‘Imaginings’. The form could be described thus: 1 Exposition of most of the themes, with silences 2 Repeat of exposition over tritone pedal in the cello, becoming increasingly developmental. 3 Climax 4 Two new themes combine with the old themes (double-stop glissandi theme and pizzicato theme) 5 Dance-like conclusion with the col legno battuto theme dominant. Like my first and second quartets, this one too is written for the Arditti Quartet who are a constant source of inspiration.

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