• Paweł Szymański
  • Five Pieces (1992)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by BBC Bristol

  • String Quartet
  • 17 min

Programme Note

Szymanski’s Five Pieces For String Quartet were composed in 1993 in response to a BBC commission for the Brodsky Quartet. The work is dedicated to the memory of the composer’s friend Jerzy Stajuda. Stajuda was one of Poland’s most outstanding artists, who died in March 1992 at the age of 55.

Each of the five pieces has a strongly individual texture, based around a single idea. The first is based on a brief phrase which could be from Mozart or Haydn, but it is worked through a dizzying series of slides from all four instruments. The second has a skipping, mechanical texture built up from single short notes. The third piece is the still, calm centre of the work - all glassy chords in harmonics, with faint ghosts of melody. On the other side of this pool of stillness, there is a loud, throbbing piece - arpeggiated chords played by all - and a gradually increasing addition of flurrying runs of decoration. The final piece is the strangest. The first violin plays a bleak, squawking series of chords. The other instruments quietly creep in, but remain in the background. The first violin never manages to pull the others into playing his rhythm; instead they simply melt away into silence.

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