Dust for string quartet by Freya Waley-Cohen.

  1. Charlotte
  2. Serpent
  3. Dust

Co-commissioned by the Aldeburgh Festival, Phillips Collection, the Nicholas Boas Trust and Sainte-Mere Festival for the Albion Quartet.

This work was composed in 2019 and first performed in June 2019 at the Aldeburgh Festival by the Albion Quartet.

Programme Notes

This quartet is dedicated to Oliver Knussen. It was impossible not to think of him when writing it in part because my first three shorter quartets were written with his guidance as my teacher. Olly never wrote a string quartet and one of his reasons was that there is ‘no bass’. Because of this ‘no bass’-ness, one of his pieces of advice about writing a string quartet was to save that low C on the cello for towards the end of the quartet so you don’t give the game away. I realised, as I was writing this note, that I have been inadvertently rebellious and started two of the movements of this quartet on that low C.

While writing this quartet I was thinking about the artist Charlotte Salomon, as well as David Foenkinos’ book about her, titled ‘Charlotte’. Threads of thoughts and ideas I found in her ‘Leben? oder Theater’ became interwoven with my thoughts while writing this quartet, particularly the way Foenkinos describes parts of her life as becoming subsumed as if in a daydream, as well as her dry and strange wit.

The title of the quartet and the third movement come from Ursula K. Le Guin’s poem ‘Come to Dust’.

- Freya Waley-Cohen

Duration: 20 minutes