String Quartet No.3

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3rd Movement
Sorrel Quartet (Dutton Epoch CDLX 7117)
By kind permission of Dutton Vocalion

This quartet was written between February and August 1994. While working on it I was approached by Godfrey and Paul Berry who wanted to commission a piece in memory of their father John Berry (1908-1992). Given its elegiac nature, it seemed appropriate to offer this quartet in response. It received its first performance in a BBC broadcast from St. David’s Hall Cardiff by the Britten Quartet on October 17th 1995.

There are three movements, the first two of which are played without a break.

The first movement is mainly fast and turbulent, though it also contains more reflective music which acts rather like a “second subject” in a conventional sonata form movement. At the point where the “second subject” would traditionally be recapitulated it transforms itself into the slow movement.

The outer sections of this second movement are sombre, but at the midpoint the music rises to a passionate climax before dying away.

The final movement also has a single central climax, but the character of the whole is quite different from the preceding movements – the anger of the first and the bleakness of the second having given way to music of a more gentle and graceful character. The music was partly suggested by the over-lapping patterns of bell-ringing which I often heard (slightly distorted, due to distance) from my study window. The work’s final bars carry a superscription from John Donne’s poem A Valediction, Forbidding Mourning: “…Like gold to ayery thinnesse beate.”

John Pickard