• Lennox Berkeley
  • String Quartet No 2 (1941)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)
  • String Quartet
  • 20 min

Programme Note

Three movements:
1. Allegro moderato
2. Lento
3. Allegro
First performance 5 June 1941, Cambridge Theatre
Stratton String Quartet

The String Quartet No 2 was written after the Serenade for Strings op12 and the Symphony No 1 (1940), works which had established Berkeley as amongst the most important composers of his generation. Berkeley’s Second Quartet, particularly when compared to the first, shows the gain in intensity and concentration that characterises his music from the war years. Writing to Britten in America Berkeley described his new quartet as "miles better than anything I’ve done yet”.

The first movement, in a modified sonata form, uses modal themes with rhythmic urgency and harmonic restlessness. The deft counterpoint of the first section is followed by a haunting and tortured development. Ambiguity over key centre is maintained until the movement ends conclusively in G. The plaintive second movement is simpler and more contemplative, but no less intense than the first. The climax is an impassioned dolcissimo, understated in its harmonic simplicity and conveying a sense of deepest grief. The intensity of the second movement is dispersed in the third, which returns to the tempo of the first movement. The distinctive rhythm of the theme recurs in different guises, rounding off the work in G major.


String Quartet No. 2, Op. 15: I. Allegro moderato
String Quartet No. 2, Op. 15: II. Lento
String Quartet No. 2, Op. 15: III. Allegro


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