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Programme Notes

I wrote my Seventh String Quartet, subtitled Skies now are skies, in 1994 for the Coull Quartet, whose then viola player David Curtis asked me to make this arrangement for string orchestra. The Quartet is dedicated to Jean Hasse, who was my wife from 1995 to 2002; like Schoenberg’s Second Quartet it incorporates song settings – three in my piece – for solo tenor. Because Jean is American, and because I was composing the music partly in London and partly in Boston, I wanted to set both English and American poetry. So I chose a poem by one of my favourite writers, D.H.Lawrence, from his volume Look! We Have Come Through!, written shortly after his elopement to Italy with Frieda Weekly, and coupled it with one of e.e.cummings’s love poems for his third wife Marion. A phrase from this poem also supplied the title of the piece. As a complement, I added a passage from The Song of Songs, originally composed in 1993 for my oratorio Vespers, adapting it from its original setting for mezzo-soprano, tenor and orchestra. The three songs are separated by interludes for string quartet alone based on the instrumental introduction. The brief scherzo before the final song also develops material from the first two songs. The work ends with an instrumental postlude. In making this string orchestra arrangement, in addition to providing a double bass part I was able in the last song to restore some of the richer textures of the orchestral setting, and also to incorporate most of the original mezzo-soprano vocal line on solo violin.

© D.M.

Skies Now Are Skies

Stratford ArtsHouse (Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, United Kingdom)

Simon Wall/The Orchestra of the Swan/David Curtis