• Elizabeth Maconchy
  • String Quartet No 9 (1969)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Written for the 1969 Radcliffe Music Award

  • String Quartet
  • 14 min

Programme Note

Elizabeth Maconchy was born in Ireland in 1907 and studied at the RCM. Though her output includes orchestral and choral music and opera, she has shown a special affection for the string quartet medium, for it is well adapted to the pithy argument her music develops.

The ninth quartet shows characteristic economy, not only in its brevity, but in audible relationships between the material of different movements. The opening unison, with its tight knot of small intervals, from semitone to major third, and its grace notes, lies behind or openly dominates the rest of a movement of many tempi and textures. But the scherzo promptly converts the same fund of intervals to new shapes, developed nimbly in translucent textures; a trio-like middle section is recalled in the coda.

The slow movement is a passionate lament, principally for the viola; the composer has revealed that it was written during the occupation of Prague. Again, familiar contours emerge from new contexts, creating an obsessive feeling that is intensified by the arched structure's inevitable return to the initial brooding. A finale of vigorously drummed rhythms, intervals now opened-out and inventive textures substitutes action for introspection, though both the first movement and the lament are clearly recalled.

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