String Quartet No.14

(2017)

Description
string quartet
Duration
12
Genres
String Quartet
First Performance
11.5.2017, Deptford Town Hall, Goldsmith's University of London, London, UK: Kreutzer Quartet
Availability

Score and parts on special sale from the Hire Library

Programme Notes
My Fourteenth Quartet began with a request from the Onslow Quartet, an amateur string quartet, for a short, not too difficult piece that they could play to celebrate their tenth anniversary. I had often thought of trying to write a quartet that amateurs could play, but had always ended up writing music too difficult for anyone other than professionals. So I was glad to accept this commission, and I already had an idea for it. I spend a large part of my life in Deal in Kent, where the beach faces east, so on clear days the sun rises out of the sea. On 15 September 2016 I watched a particularly spectacular sunrise, not straight out of the sea, as there was a bank of cloud on the horizon; this was suffused with pink, and the thin clouds above became rosier and rosier, the upper ones edged with yellow, until the sun, brilliant red, emerged from the cloudbank. All the time I was watching, a simple six-note motive was going round and round in my head. I decided to write a piece that would try to express in sound what I had seen, using the six-note motive throughout with gradual intensification and crescendo, ending in a fortissimo climax. The sunrise has of course inspired a number of composers in the past, but it remains a constant source of wonder.
 
Since the sunrise piece lasted only four minutes, I decided to extend it for my friends the Kreutzer Quartet, for whom I have written three of my last four quartets. So I wrote a preliminary, meditative section called ‘Night’, which includes the calls of tawny owls, both male and female and, at the end, herring gulls announcing the arrival of the dawn. After ‘Sunrise’ comes ‘Day’, Molto vivace con gioia, in four linked paragraphs: the first a four-part fugue; the second using the melody from the climax of ‘Sunrise’; the third presenting a pair of blackbirds singing over an energetic accompaniment; the last a three-bar phrase moving through all the keys in a series of rising fourths, ending with in the D major in which it (and ‘Day’ itself) began.
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