Horn Quintet


horn and string quartet
Solo Instrument(s) with Ensemble
Commissioned for the Nash Ensemble with funds provided by the Britten-Pears Foundation and the Nash Concert Society
First Performance
23.3.2011, Wigmore Hall, London: Richard Watkins/Nash Ensemble

Score and parts on special sale from the hire library

Programme Notes

I composed my Quintet for horn and string quartet between July and October 2010 for the Nash Ensemble. There are, surprisingly, few pieces written for horn and string quartet, and none of them are in the repertoire (Mozart's Horn Quintet, the only one that is at all well known, has one violin and two violas). Nicholas Maw, my friend and mentor for 40 years, had been intending to write a horn quintet for the Nash Ensemble, but had not done so by the time of his death in 2009. So I have dedicated my own Quintet to his memory. The Quintet is in two movements, slow and fast, separated by a cadenza for the horn, and lasts around 12 minutes. The first movement is an Andante in sonata form, whose first and second subjects are unified by their prominent use of major and minor thirds. At the end of the movement I quote a passage from Maw's orchestral work, The World in the Evening, one of my favourite moments in his music, where a theme for the violins (which I have given to the horn) is projected over superimposed triads of E major and F minor. The cadenza that follows changes the mood from what up till now has been thoughtful and somewhat melancholic music to a new, brighter energy: the second movement begins Molto vivace with a theme again based on major and minor thirds, in characteristic 'hunting' rhythms. Contrasting music based on a cantabile phrase is gradually introduced. The momentum is interrupted twice, first by a recapitulation of the cadenza, over a cello pedal note, then by a shadowy reference to the first movement. At the last resumption of the Molto vivace, the music becomes more and more exuberant until finally bursting into a full statement of the cantabile music, now unified into a long arch of C major melody.

© D.M.

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