Score 0-571-56639-1 (fp) and set of parts 0-571-56640-5 (fp) on sale
My Ninth Quartet began fortuitously in February 2000 after I had written a short piano piece for the 75th birthday of my friend Donald Mitchell. I found that this piano piece would work well as string quartet music, and that I had the beginning of a first movement, which I then drafted in ten days. It is a short sonata movement: the first subject is introduced by each of the instruments in turn; the second subject is given to the 2nd violin. By the time I had finished the first movement I had decided on a four-movement structure, with the two middle movements considerably longer than the outer movements. The Adagio second movement bears the emotional weight of the Quartet. It is modelled to a certain extent on the slow movement of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony, with two successively more elaborate repeats of the long first paragraph separated by chant-like contrasting music, which at its second appearance introduces a wistful reminiscence of the 2nd violins’ tune from the first movement. The third movement is an extended tango, whose opening section is based on a tango for cello and piano that I wrote in August 1999. The movement contains three successive tangos, the second of which acts also as a development of the first one, followed by a repeat of the first tango which also includes references to the other two. The tango seems to me to be an ideal substitute for the Classical minuet: a contemporary dance form with infectious rhythms, capable of much subtle variation. For the finale, which follows without a break, I originally had the finale of Chopin’s B flat minor Sonata in mind: it is a moto perpetuo, beginning darkly with chromatic unison phrases based on inversions of the first movement’s material; but the music gradually becomes polyphonic and its character abruptly changes when it bursts into D major and the two violins begin a kind of Irish jig, which ends the Quartet in a mood of quiet exuberance. The Quartet was commissioned by the Mandelring Quartet and is dedicated to them.
© David Matthews